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Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms. If you are a woman age 40 or older, you should schedule an annual mammogram. Houston Methodist has created a quick guide for What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Health & Early Screenings. You can download the guide here.
Regularly checking your breasts allows you to become familiar with how they normally look and feel. You will be more likely to notice any changes, including:
- Lumps, hard knots or thickening inside the breast or underarm
- Breast swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
- Breast size or shape changes
- Skin dimpling or puckering
- An itchy, scaly nipple sore or rash
- Nipple or breast inversion or retraction
- Sudden nipple discharge
- New pain in one spot that does not go away
A self-examination can help diagnose breast cancer. A clinical breast exam should be part of your annual well-woman checkup and performed by your doctor.
There are 5 different kinds of Breast Cancer.
It can originate from different types of cells or tissues in the breast. Responses to a treatment may differ, depending on the type, which includes:
1. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) - a common, non-invasive breast cancer. Cancer cells develop in the lining of the milk ducts without spreading to nearby tissue
2. Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) - an area of abnormal cell growth that increases risk of later invasive breast cancer development. It is found in the lobules, or milk-producing organs, without invading nearby tissue. Women who have had LCIS have a higher chance of developing an invasive breast cancer
3. Infiltrating ductal carcinoma (IDC) - also known as invasive ductal carcinoma, is the most common breast cancer. It starts in the milk ducts, grows into the breast's fatty tissue and can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream
4. Infiltrating lobular carcinoma (ILC) - also known as invasive lobular carcinoma, starts in the lobules and can spread
5. Inflammatory breast cancer - a less common invasive cancer that does not produce lumps or tumors. It makes breast skin appear red and feel warm. The breast may become larger and more tender. It is hard to detect in its early stages
Some factors may decrease breast cancer risk or recurrence:
- Decreased estrogen exposure,
- Medications to reduce estrogen receptivity
- Medications to inhibit estrogen production
- Prophylactic mastectomy (breast removal without cancer diagnosis or symptoms)
- Prophylactic oophorectomy (ovary removal without cancer diagnosis or symptoms)
- A healthy lifestyle and diet
- Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
- Avoiding fatty foods
- Adding whole grains, cereals and calcium
- Regularly exercising
- Not smoking
- Moderate alcohol consumption
If you are at risk for breast cancer or are concerned, you should consult with your physician to develop a plan and path for your health including treatment procedures and breast cancer support.
The "Breast Cancer Care Path" diagram above is provided by Houston Methodist, an organization dedicated to educating you and being there for each part of your journey.
Houston Methodist Cancer Center offers the most advanced breast cancer treatments and comprehensive care available, from diagnosis through survivorship. Our leading cancer care is available at 7 locations across Greater Houston, so you can focus on healing, surviving and thriving.