Some women have a very common condition known as fibrocystic breast disease, which is characterised by discomfort and lumpiness in one or both breasts. The lumps are due to breast cysts or small breast masses and are benign - meaning they're not cancerous.
While in reality, there's no link between fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer risk, women with the disease may experience false alarms. If you're diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease, here are some handy tips for being vigilant about changes in your breasts that will help you spot symptoms of breast cancer.
Perform a breast self-exam once a month and see your doctor if you notice anything at all
Dense, lumpy breasts due to fibrocystic breast disease can make it tricky to differentiate normal breast tissue from cancerous tissues. This is the number one reason for false alarms.
That said, you should perform breast self-exams once a month and see your doctor if you notice anything at all. He or she will then follow up with mammograms and ultrasound examination.
While monthly breast self-exams aren’t scientifically proven to result in higher breast cancer
survival rates overall, sometimes women do spot lumps on their own. You should know what’s normal for your body.
Plus, performing self-exams is proven to relieve anxiety
and prevent unnecessary trips to the doctor and biopsies of benign lumps.
If you do have breast cancer
, the earlier you find out, the better – early diagnosis can increase your chance of survival.
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Before you panic, keep in mind that most breast changes and lumps don’t end up being cancer
There’s a misconception that breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump. While a lump may indicate breast cancer – or one of many non-cancerous breast conditions, just like fibrocystic breast disease – you should still be alert for other types of changes that may be symptoms of cancer.
Here are a few breast cancer symptoms, apart from lumps, you should watch out for:
Breast or nipple pain;
Nipple retraction (turning inward);
Thickening of the breast skin or nipple; and
Discharge other than breast milk.
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately, but try not to panic or jump to conclusions. Most breast changes and lumps don’t end up being cancer. In fact, nearly 80% of biopsies come back benign.
The bottom line is that false alarms are very common for women with fibrocystic breasts, which can make the breasts feel dense and lumpy, with symptoms that vary throughout the menstrual cycle.
Your best course of action is to follow a breast cancer prevention regimen that includes breast self-exams, clinical breast exams and regular mammograms.