Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer in American women. Researchers don’t know for sure what’s causing the breast cancer epidemic, but they tend to believe that radiation exposure, postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, obesity, and regular alcohol consumption could be contributing factors.
There’s also some evidence that exposure to phthalates, a type of chemical that makes plastics more durable, can potentially lead to endocrine disorders and cancer. Phthalates are found in detergents, fragrances, insecticides, and cosmetics.
Aside from using preventive methods such as making lifestyle changes and lowering your exposure to toxic chemicals, you can also perform self-exams at home to detect breast changes early on.
Not all breast cancers are caused by environmental factors. Some run in families, which makes regular check-ups and self-exams a must.
Below, we asked our experts at Casa de Salud to explain how you can conduct a breast self-exam at home.
Examine the appearance of your breast
The first step in a self-exam is to undress in a room with a high-quality mirror and good lighting and examine the appearance of your breasts while holding your arms relaxed next to your torso. Look for swelling, changes in skin color, breasts changing shape, and nipples that have changed position or have become inverted. Dimpling, rashes, and soreness are also signs to look out for.
Repeat the same process while lifting your arms.
Look for fluid discharge
Gently touch the nipples, and look for any discharge if you aren’t pregnant. The discharge could be watery, viscous, white, yellow, or red.
Feel the breasts for lumps
Lay down and use two fingers to feel your breasts for lumps, hardness, or any other changes in texture. Make sure you feel the whole breast. Next, repeat the same process while standing up.
What happens if you find abnormalities?
Changes in the appearance of the skin could be a sign of allergies, infections, or hormone fluctuations.
Lumps in the breasts aren’t always a sign of cancer. Sometimes they’re signs of hormone fluctuations or a consequence of an injury to the breast.
Fluid discharges may be scary to see, but these fluids can also indicate other conditions, such as endocrine disorders, infections, and abscesses. Some women experience discharge as a side effect of birth control pills.
However, any changes should prompt a visit to the doctor’s office. Even if cancer isn’t the cause of these changes, there may be other conditions that need medical care.
If you’ve found abnormalities or simply want a specialist to examine your breasts, contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our two Los Angeles, California, offices.