Breast Disorders and Disease
Women may experience breast disorders that are most commonly benign but can occasionally be cancerous or malignant. It is important for women to monitor any changes in their breasts and seek medical attention if any symptoms occur. In addition to a woman’s self breast exam, an annual breast exam performed by a gynecologist is also recommended.
What are symptoms of a breast disorder?
Common symptoms related to the breast include breast pain or tenderness, palpable lumps or masses, discharge from the nipple, or changes in the skin of the breast tissue. Experiencing unusual breast symptoms does not necessarily mean their is cancer present. Hormonal changes may cause common breast symptoms such as tenderness, but women should see their doctor if they observe lasting changes.
How to do a self breast exam?
Stand looking in the mirror with arms by your sides while observing the breast and nipple for any physical appearance changes. Continue looking for any changes as you raise your arms high above your head. Next place your hands on your hips and push firmly to flex your chest muscles. Looking at the breasts from these different angles helps you notice subtle changes. After you have checked for visualize abnormalities, use your fingertips to move around your breast in a circular motion from the outside to the center. Check both breasts and armpit areas for any lumps, thickening, or hard knots. You should repeat this exam while laying down and placing a pillow under your shoulder while placing the arm on that side behind your head. Check for abnormalities using the same circular motion. Finally, you should squeeze your nipple to check for any discharge.
How will the doctor evaluate breast symptoms?
The doctor will take a medical history and ask about symptom details including duration and if they occur intermittently or consistently. The doctor will then perform a breast exam to check for any lumps, abnormal thickening, changes in the skin, nipple discharge, or enlarged lymph nodes. If any abnormalities are found then next step may involve diagnostic testing to determine if cancer is present.
What tests may be performed?
If a lump is found or if a woman is experiencing focal breast pain breast imaging such as mammography, ultrasonography, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be performed. Results of imagining will influence the next steps with testing. If a woman is experiencing nipple discharge the doctor will determine if the discharge is pathologic or physiologic and then decide on further diagnostics