Every woman is at risk for breast cancer, which is why it should become a part of her routine to regularly perform monthly breast self-examinations.  However, since breasts contain fatty tissue, how do you distinguish between an “okay” and “abnormal” lump?  The answer: the best way to determine what is normal for you is to become familiar with your breasts — every woman is uniquely different.

Most women who feel for lumps likely discover that their breasts have them.  The reality is all breasts are lumpy, the lumpy issue is actually called fibrocystic tissue.  As you age, you lose fibrocystic tissue.  Pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight gain, and aging can all contribute to this loss of tissue — and it gets replaced with fat. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, then it’s likely normal breast tissue.  However, if you find any lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast you should have them checked by a professional. As noted, each woman’s breasts are uniquely different. Similarly, the warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women.

The most common breast cancer signs are:

  •  A change in the look/feel of the breast
  • A change in the look/feel of the nipple
  • Nipple discharge

Tips for the self-breast exam

  • Perform a self-breast exam at least once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel. Examine yourself several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and/or sore.
  • Do not panic if you feel a lump or even lumps — most women have somewhat lumpy breasts. What is important is determining if any lumps seem out of the norm.  If the lump is hard, or “pebble-like,” this could be a red flag of something more serious.

For a step-by-step guide for the self-breast exam, click here.  If you are concerned about a lump you’ve found in your breast, visit your nearest CareWell to be checked by a licensed professional.