Breast cancer poses a potential threat to women of all ages. Like any other form of cancer, breast cancer is most treatable when it is discovered early, and treatment begins before the cancer has grown or spread. This is why keeping up with annual breast exams and screenings is so important. We understand that breast screening appointments can be uncomfortable for many women, especially younger women who are just beginning to have their breasts examined. In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our board-certified gynecologists wanted to answer a few common questions about what women can expect during a breast exam.
Question #1: What happens during a clinical breast exam?
During a clinical breast exam, one of our healthcare providers physically and visually examines the breasts to look for any potential irregularities. This may include any changes in size or shape, as well as lumps, dimples, redness, or leakage that may have appeared since the last time the breasts were examined.
Question #2: How will my breast exams change as I age?
A clinical breast exam will always be part of an annual breast exam, but starting at age 40, we highly recommend for women to begin undergoing annual screening mammograms as well. Some women may be recommended to begin mammograms sooner if they have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors. A mammogram uses x-rays to screen for suspicious areas within the breast tissue. During the mammogram, the breast is exposed to a small dose of ionizing radiation that helps produce an image of the breast tissue. Unlike clinical breast exams, mammograms can help us detect lumps and other potential abnormalities before they can be seen or felt. Mammograms are recommended until a woman reaches 75-years of age.
Question #3: What can I do between annual breast exams to help protect myself from breast cancer?
Breast self-exams are an integral part of detecting potential signs of breast cancer early. Self-exams involve a woman regularly feeling her breasts for lumps, tumors, cysts, or anything else irregular. It’s best to do this monthly in order to be aware of any recent changes. Our gynecologists recommend for women to wait a few days after they have completed their most recent menstrual cycle, as hormonal changes that occur during a period can affect the size and feel of the breasts.
Here at Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett, breast exams are part of all annual well woman exams. We understand that it may be impossible to prevent breast cancer from occurring for some women. However, there is incredible value in being proactive and keeping up with your breast exams and screenings in order to promote the best possible long-term health and wellness. To request a screening appointment today, please contact Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett. And follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information, news, and details on our upcoming health and wellness events.