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Know the Symptoms of Breast Cancer, and Treat it Early


October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time dedicated to increasing awareness on the importance of early detection.

Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. According to the National Cancer Institute, women in the U.S. have a 1 in 8 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during their lives. Furthermore, Connecticut has the sixth highest rate of detecting new cases of breast cancer in the country, signifying the importance of early detection.

The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.

Many symptoms of breast cancer are not noticeable without a professional screening like a mammogram or ultrasound. However, other symptoms can be observed if you are proactive about your breast health.

It’s important to become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel. This will help you to identify changes in your breasts that should be discussed with your healthcare provider. Here are some changes to look for:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering in the skin of the breast
  • A nipple turned inward into the breast
  • Discharge (fluid) from the nipple
  • Scaly, red or swollen skin on the breast, nipple, or areola (the dark area of skin at the center of the breast)

Besides talking with your doctor or healthcare provider to learn more about what you can do for yourself, for a family member, or a friend, please be aware of the following breast cancer recommendations:

  • Self-breast examinations should be performed monthly
  •  Clinical breast examination by a healthcare provider should be performed once every 1-3 years between the ages of 20 and 40, and then on an annual basis starting at age 40
  •  For most women, annual mammograms should start at age 40
  • Mammograms should be performed before the age of 40 when an increased risk exists such as family members with breast cancer or other cancers

Fortunately, there are resources to prevent, diagnose, treat, and care for breast cancer, as well as to provide survivorship care for people who have had breast cancer.

If you notice any symptoms or changes in your breasts, tell your healthcare provider immediately so that problems can be diagnosed and treated promptly.

Dr. Michael Baum is a general surgeon and president of the Day Kimball Healthcare medical staff.

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