So you’re being a good girl (and boy), doing your monthly breast self-examination. It’s a routine check-up before you dress up and head out for your morning cuppa, but wait. What’s that? It’s a hard lump. And it’s in your breast.
What should you do when this happens? Freak out? Ignore the lump and hope it goes away? First of all, keep in mind that 80% of lumps identified have been found to be benign , so you can press pause on the panic attack for now.
Here are the steps you should take if you discover a lump in your breast:
Step 1. Ask yourself if you know your breasts/chest well enough
Breasts are usually lumpy to begin with, and most of the time, these lumps are made up of normal fatty, fibrous, cystic breast tissue.
If you’ve been examining yourself monthly, you’ll come to know your breasts (for men: your chest area) pretty well and will know if something is really out of place. For the girls, note that depending on the time of the month (usually nearing or during your period), your breasts can get more swollen and tender.
If you’re not too worried, take note of the lump, and see if it shrinks or goes away as your menstrual cycle progresses. Cancerous lumps would not shrink or go away.
The symptoms of breast cancer in men is similar to that of women. The most common symptom is a lump in the chest/breast area, which will usually be painless. Other symptoms could include: nipple discharge, swelling of the breast, ulcer in the skin of the breast, inverted nipple and lumps under your arm.
Step 2. See a doctor
But before you head over, think about when you started noticing the lump, if you have any nipple discharge, and if you have any history of breast cancer in your family. At the doctor’s, both your breasts and underarms will be examined for any suspicious lumps. Don’t be afraid to open up to your doctor about your concerns.
Step 3: Further tests
After examining you, if there’s cause for concern, your doctor will usually refer you to a breast specialist, who will perform one or more of the following tests. The tests are the same for both men and women.
An ultrasound scan helps to identify if the lump is a harmless cyst filled with fluids, or a mass (most of the time, the lumps turn out to be fluid-filled cysts). The process is fast and painless.
A mammogram is basically an x-ray of your breasts. To get the x-ray, your breasts would be pressed between two plates and can be uncomfortable, but only for a couple of minutes. If there’s cause for concern, your doctor will usually prescribe you to a diagnostic mammogram. Unlike regular screening mammograms, a diagnostic mammogram x-rays your breasts but zooming in on areas of concern to give doctors a more detailed look.
Digital mammography is a newer technology that allows x-ray shots to be cleaned up for an even clearer look at the breasts. The Philips MicroDose Mammography is one such machine which uses new technology to lower the dose of radiation without compromising on image quality.
Mammograms are recommended to women above 35, as they’re less effective in finding cancerous masses in younger women.
For most people, a mammogram or ultrasound is sufficient to detect breast cancer. However, when the scans don’t come back with conclusive information, your doctor may prescribe you for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
Step 4: Ask questions / Remain vigilant
If you’re cleared
If your doctor clears you from breast cancer, you should still remain alert and continue with your monthly self-exams 7-10 days after the start of a menstrual period.
If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer
If you do end up getting diagnosed with cancer, don’t make your decisions in haste. Ask your doctor questions about treatment options and how soon you’ll need to make a decision. It’s best to take the information home and discuss with your loved ones instead of making a hasty ill-informed decision on the spot.
Some questions you could ask your doctor include:
- What type of breast cancer do I have?
- How far has it spread?
- What stage is my cancer, and what does that mean for me?
- What treatment choices do I have and what would you recommend for me?
- How much experience do you have treating this type of cancer?
- What are the chances of the cancer coming back after the treatment?
Step 5: Get a second opinion
This is vital. Doctors are not perfect and they too can make mistakes. Getting a second opinion from another breast cancer specialist helps ensure that your diagnosis is correct and that your treatment plan from your current doctor makes sense.
Discovering a lump in your breast isn’t a death sentence. Most of the time it is benign (not harmful) and you can go on with your life after getting it checked. However, if does turn out to be malignant, you get a much better shot at beating the cancer if you discover it early. Continue doing your monthly self check-ups and regular mammograms and who knows, it could save your life one day. This applies to the gents too. While it’s rare, breast cancer do happen to men. It pays to be vigilant. Mammography has proven to be a powerful diagnostic tool for the early detection of breast cancer. However, breast tissue is sensitive to radiation and it’s important to subject your boobies to as low a dose as possible. Among the technology currently in the market, the Philips MicroDose Mammography allows doctors to get excellent images for detection of potential abnormalities at a low radiation dose.
Do the best for your breasts! If you found something unusual, sign up for a a FREE Mammogram Screening HERE (or click on the pic below) by Nov 15, 2014.
Help spread breast cancer awareness! Simply take a picture of something in pairs representing breasts or snap a photo of you or your loved ones or friends wearing or using something pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Post and tag all your photos with #philipsBCA on social media to help get the word out.