Parkridge Medical Group October 05, 2015

In the fight against breast cancer, early detection can be a powerful tool.

The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chances for survival. To facilitate early detection, the American Cancer Society recommends that women be aware of what’s normal for their breasts, which might be best accomplished with regular breast self-exams. When performing self-exams, be keenly aware of these five potential problems, and report any you might find to your primary care provider as soon as possible.

1) A lump in the breast or underarm area. A hard knot, either on your breast tissue or underneath your arm, can be a symptom of breast cancer.

2) A change in the size or shape of the breast. Puberty and breastfeeding can change the shape of your breasts, but if one breast looks different than normal, it could be a sign of trouble. Breast or underarm swelling can also indicate a problem.

3) Abnormal conditions with the nipple. An itchy rash or sore, sudden discharge, and inversion of the nipple are all signs that should be reported to your physician right away.

4) Skin issues. Scaliness or thickening of the breast skin, as well as irritation or dimpling, should not be ignored.

5) Pain. Pain in a specific place that does not go away could be an indication of breast cancer.

In addition to looking out for any changes in your breasts, you should have an annual mammogram starting at age 40. For women of above-average risk due to family history or other factors, additional imaging tests—including ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)—can be used to detect or rule out breast cancer.

A primary care physician (PCP) can help you monitor your breast health and refer you to specialized care if needed. To find a PCP in our area, visit