How to Watch for Breast Cancer Symptoms


woman-breast-cancer-self-exam
False alarms are especially common for women with fibrocystic breasts.
(RICK GOMEZ/CORBIS/VEER)
Being vigilant about changes in your breasts can help you spot the symptoms of breast cancer—and spot them earlier, when the cancer is more likely to be treated successfully.

While most doctors recommend monthly breast self-exams, it's not yet clear if the practice results in higher survival rates overall. But women do sometimes find lumps on their own.

See your doctor if you notice anything at all.

Before you panic, however, keep in mind that most breast changes and lumps dont end up being cancer—even if you get to the point of doing a biopsy. Nearly 80% of biopsies come back benign.

False alarms are especially common for women with fibrocystic changes, which can make the breasts feel thicker or lumpy, with symptoms that may change over the course of the menstrual cycle. In the meantime, your best course of action is to follow a screening regimen that includes regular mammograms, clinical breast exams, and breast self-exams.
Lead writer: Lorie Parch
Last Updated: April 26, 2008

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