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Knowing your own breast

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Your Health/by Elizabeth Crigler-McGuire

  During a woman’s life, she has different changes in her breast. She might have more lumpiness during her period or may have breast problems, like a mastitis (a breast infection), while breastfeeding.

Several breast conditions can affect women. Learning more about these breast condition can help you find problems early and have them treated right away.

Many women are affected by breast cancer at some point in their lives, whether you’ve had it or had a family member or friend who’s battled it. Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women. It is also the disease that many women fear the most. 

But we need to remember that if breast cancer is found early, it can often be treated successfully. Many women have overcome breast cancer and are living lives cancer free!!

Early breast cancer is usually not painful. However, when the cancer grows, it can cause changes in your breast. Look for:

--a hard lump, thickening, or hard knot in or near the breast or in your underarm

--a change in the size or shape of the breast nipple, discharge that is clear or especially if bloody or blood tinged that leaks out on its own without the nipple being squeezed

--dimpling or puckering of the skin on the breast

--itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple

--ridges or pitting of the breast (when your skins looks like the peel of an orange

--unusual swelling, warmth, or redness that doesn’t go away

There are different ways to find breast changes. 

The first one is to know your breast. Women should check their own breasts for changes once a month. 

If you find a change, it’s important to call your doctor or nurse for an appointment to see him or her. 

Make sure to watch the change you have found until you see your doctor or nurse. The second one is get a clinical breast exam. The breast exam is done by your doctor or nurse.

He or she will check your breasts and underarms for any lumps, nipple discharge, or other changes. The breast exam should be part of a routine checkup. 

Third, is to get a mammogram annually. It is the best way to find out if you have breast cancer. A mammogram is a x-ray of the breast, a x-ray can find breast cancer that is too small for you or your doctor to feel.

All women starting at the age of 40 should get a mammogram every one to two years. 

Discuss how often you need a mammogram with your doctor. If your mother or sister had breast cancer, be especially proactive about getting a mammogram. The best way is to have the mammogram done right after your period because it might be less painful. It will also be more accurate at that time than when you have your period.

If you change mammography facilities or need a second opinion, be sure to get your original mammograms-not copies. 

Your doctor will need to compare past mammograms with current ones to see if there are any changes.