Signs of Breast Cancer and Screening Information

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month right around the corner in October and actress Julie Louis Dreyfus just today announcing her own battle with breast cancer, it’s quickly becoming one health condition garnering growing conversation amongst women, their families and healthcare professionals.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a practicing family physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, is going to use this article to explain the signs and symptoms that women – and even men – should watch for, and also discuss how screening and simple at-home self examinations can not only help to prevent breast cancer, but catch it early – leading to a good prognosis and healthy future.

An estimated 1 in 8 women will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime. In Canada, an estimated 26,300 women and 230 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer – while almost 5,000 women and 43 men will die from it this year alone.

It is important for both men and women to pay close attention to any changes they notice in their breasts. While it’s not unusual for the breasts to differ in shape, size or feel – especially during one’s menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or as you age – it is important to understand that not all breast changes are normal. For example, finding a lump (especially one that persists) on the breast or near the underarm is a common early sign of breast cancer – though not all women or men with breast cancer will develop a lump or lumps. Signs of breast cancer can also include swelling of the breast, irritation such as itching, redness or scaling of the breast, or abnormal discharge from the nipple. Even if you think that you do not have breast cancer, it is important to report any breast abnormalities to your physician.

Women are also advised to perform at-home breast examinations at least once a month. You can find a step-by-step guide on how to accurately perform a self-examination by clicking here. Women between the ages of 50 and 69 are also recommended to go for a mammogram every 2 years. A mammogram is performed by taking detailed images of the breasts from different angles. While it can be an uncomfortable test due to the compression of the breast, it only lasts for a few seconds.

Many resources on breast cancer can be found via the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation or BC Cancer Agency websites. Also be sure to follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more information on breast cancer starting next month.