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Breast examination - what to look for and when to see your doctor.

Although you can detect certain breast changes yourself, most impactful changes are only detected through the use of imaging technology like a mammogram, ultrasound or MRI. No matter if a change in your breast was detected by a general practitioner or yourself, it is vital that you follow up with your doctor to make sure that everything is checked out, and you receive a proper diagnosis.

Breast Self-examination

When conducting a breast self-examination, some things to look for include noting that your breasts are their normal shape, size and color. Look for any visible swelling or distortion.

Next, raise your arms and check for the above signs. Also look for signs of discharge from one or both nipples.

Check with your general practitioner if your breast feels or looks different, or if you spot any of the following symptoms:
  • The presence of a lump or firm area on your breast or beneath an arm. Lumps have different sizes and shapes. It is not unusual for normal breast tissue to occasionally have lumps.
  • Conducting breast self-exams on a regular basis can help you establish a baseline for future reference. In other words, you will familiarize yourself with how your breasts feel normally. Then any changes will be immediately detected by comparing the most recent exam with your first one. Keep in mind that self-exams should not be considered as a mammogram substitute.
  • Changes to nipple or discharge: Any discharge from a nipple can be of varying textures and colors. Some possible causes are birth control pills, certain medications, and infections. However, it could also indicate the presence of cancer, so be sure to get it checked out by your doctor.
  • Itchy, red, dimpled, scaled, or puckered skin.
Noncancerous Breast Changes

Women typically experience changes to their breasts due to factors like hormonal changes and the aging process.

You may experience changes to your breasts like a feeling of tenderness, pain, or swelling before or during menstrual periods. It is not unusual to experience lumps at this time due to an accumulation of fluid. Your doctor may want to follow up with you at various times in your menstrual cycle to look for any changes to the lump.

It is not unusual to find that your breasts feel lumpy while you are pregnant. Milk-producing glands increase in number and size at this time. You may also develop a condition called mastitis while you are breast-feeding. Mastitis develops due to blocked milk ducts and can cause your breasts to feel lumpy, tender and warm. They may also have a reddish appearance. Mastitis may be due to some type of infection, which can be treated using antibiotics. At other times, milk ducts can be drained.

Perimenopause, a condition that occurs immediately prior to menopause, can cause hormonal fluctuations, making your breasts feel tender, even though you may not be having a menstrual period. Your breasts could feel lumpier than usual at this time.

If you have any concerns about your breast health, or need any other advice, please contact us on 07 5531 3205 or contact us using our online form.

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