Know the possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

CMH provider shares preventative health care tips in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Emily Olson, DNP, CNM, M.Ed.


You’ve probably heard or read the statistic by now: About one in eight females in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, whereas breast cancer in males is rarer and accounts for less than 1% of all breast cancers.

Treatments work best when breast cancer is caught early. That’s why it’s important for females to get screened regularly for the disease starting at age 40. Transgender women who have received gender-affirming hormones for over 5 years should also be screened regularly after the age of 50. Transgender men should be screened at a regular interval starting at age 40. Transgender men should start regular screenings at age 50 if they have had chest reduction/reconstruction.

In addition to regular screening, it’s equally as important to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer at any age, since even younger people can — and do — get the disease.

Be on the lookout — and speak up.

Emily Olson, DNP, CNM, is a certified nurse midwife at the CMH-OHSU Health Women’s Center.

Any changes to the look or feel of your breasts shouldn’t be ignored. Chances are, something other than cancer is the cause. But it’s always best to let your primary or women’s healthcare provider know if you’re having any of the following possible signs or symptoms:

• A lump or thickening inside the breast, chest or in the underarm area.

• A change in the size or shape of a breast.

• A dimple or puckering in the skin of a breast.

• A nipple that has turned inward or is sore near the nipple.

• Fluid, other than breast milk, leaking from a nipple, especially if the fluid is bloody or leaks from only one breast.

• Skin irritation or color changes — such as redness or darkening, scaliness or new creases — anywhere on a breast, nipple or areola (the dark area of skin around the nipple).

• Small dimples in a breast that look like the skin of an orange.

• Pain in a breast, especially if the pain doesn’t go away or doesn’t seem to be related to your menstrual cycle.

Your provider will ask you how long and how often you’ve been experiencing these signs and symptoms. They’ll also examine your breasts. And if necessary, they may order tests like a mammogram or ultrasound. You may need a biopsy if the results of those tests suggest something suspicious.

The thought of having breast cancer can be scary. But try to remember that other conditions can cause changes to your breasts. That’s why it’s always best to see your provider and get a diagnosis.

Finally, things that are good for your health can also reduce your risk for breast cancer: maintain a healthy weight; add physical activity to your routine; limit alcohol intake; avoid smoking; limit menopausal hormone use; and if you have children, breastfeed if you can and want to.

Call your CMH clinic or visit to request an appointment or learn more information.

Note: Here’s to Your Health is sponsored by Columbia Memorial Hospital. Emily Olson is a certified nurse midwife at the CMH-OHSU Health Women’s Center.

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