Detecting breast cancer early — when it’s small and hasn’t yet spread — increases the chances of effective treatment. Many breast cancers are detected through clinical breast cancer exams. That means that your self-breast exam and your clinical breast cancer screening are invaluable for early detection. Combine that with genetic testing, and your chances of catching breast cancer early are even greater.
That is why we include breast exams in your annual well-woman exams here at OB/GYN Care Orlando in Oviedo, Florida.
Below, our team discusses the importance of regular breast cancer screenings.
Breast cancer screenings refer to various tests that check for signs of cancer before you experience any symptoms, such as breast pain or nipple changes. Breast cancer screenings include:
Genetic testing is a type of test 一 often a blood test or cheek swab 一 that looks for DNA changes that may indicate an increased risk of developing cancer. While it doesn’t screen for signs of current cancer (such as a breast lump), genetic testing can help you determine if you need an alternate screening schedule.
For example, if you have a higher risk of breast cancer based on your genetic testing results, we may recommend more frequent mammograms to screen for any cancerous changes.
For your convenience, we offer genetic testing on-site for our patients with a strong family history of breast cancer.
Self-breast exams are monthly exams you perform on yourself. By manually palpating your breasts, you can identify any changes from the previous month. Look for the presence of lumps or bumps, skin changes, nipple changes, or discharge unrelated to breastfeeding. Because breast tenderness can fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle, perform your breast exam at the same time each month (e.g., day 8 of your cycle every month).
Clinical breast exams are similar to your self-exam, except that Dr. Gene Krishingner, Jr. performs the exam instead of you. If you have any concerns about potential breast chances, don’t hesitate to let us know. Report any changes 一 even subtle ones 一 during your appointment.
Mammograms are special X-rays that examine your breast tissue. They can show small bumps or lumps before you can even feel them. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend starting mammograms at age 40.
Dr. K may recommend receiving your annual mammogram at age 40, although you may need an alternate (or earlier) schedule if you have a higher risk of breast cancer.
Self-exams should be performed monthly. You can perform your exam in the shower, lying flat on your bed, or in front of a mirror. That ensures that you can detect hardened areas, lumps, skin and nipple changes, but also any visual changes such as asymmetrical breast shape or changes in breast size.
Dr. K also performs a clinical breast exam during your annual well-woman visit, but if you notice any changes in your breasts before then, don’t hesitate to reach out. Breast cancer screenings aren’t the only screening during your well-woman exam. We also perform Pap smears — a screening test for cervical cancer. Both of these screenings can reduce your risk of cancer.
If there are any red flags during your clinical breast exam, Dr. K guides you with the appropriate follow-up steps, which may include a mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI.
The thought of cancer can be overwhelming, but remember that regular screenings are your best chance for early detection and intervention, if needed. Keep in mind that not all breast changes ー lumps or skin changes ー indicate the presence of cancer. For example, breast pain can be connected to hormonal fluctuations in early pregnancy. Breast lumps can also be benign, or non-cancerous. Examples of benign breast lumps are cysts and fibroadenomas. Clogged milk ducts can also cause a temporary lump.
If you have questions about breast exams or would like to schedule your next well-woman exam with our physician Dr. K, call our Oviedo, Florida, office at 321-304-6249 or book an appointment online.