Breast cancer information from St. Luke’s Hospital

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To raise awareness and prevention of breast cancer, October is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“In the last 30 years, doctors have made great strides in diagnosing and treating the disease and in reducing breast cancer deaths,” said St. Luke’s Hospital Director of Radiology Teresa Marlowe.
Most breast lumps aren’t cancerous. Yet the most common sign of breast cancer for both men and women is a lump or thickening in the breast. Often, the lump is painless.
Other signs of breast cancer include:
• A spontaneous clear or bloody discharge from your nipple.
• Retraction or indentation of your nipple.
• A change in the size or contours of your breast.
• Any flattening or indentation of the skin over your breast.
• Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange.
A number of factors other than breast cancer can cause breasts to change in size or feel. In addition to the natural changes that occur during pregnancy and menstrual cycle, other common noncancerous (benign) breast conditions include:
• Fibrocystic changes. This condition can cause your breasts to feel ropy or granular. Fibrocystic changes are extremely common, occurring in at least half of all women.
• Cysts. These are fluid-filled sacs that frequently occur in the breasts of women ages 35 to 50. Cysts can range from very tiny to about the size of an egg. They can increase in size or become more tender just before your menstrual period, and may disappear completely after it. Cysts are less common in postmenopausal women.
• Fibroadenomas. These are solid, noncancerous tumors that often occur in women during their reproductive years. A fibroadenoma is a firm, smooth, rubbery lump with a well-defined shape. It will move under your skin when touched and is usually painless.
• Infections. Breast infections, mastitis, are common in women who are breast-feeding or who recently have stopped breast-feeding, although you can also develop mastitis when you’re not nursing. Breasts will likely be red, warm, tender and lumpy and the lymph nodes under arm may swell.
• Trauma. Sometimes a blow to your breast or a bruise also can cause a lump.
• Calcium deposits (microcalcifications). These tiny deposits of calcium can appear anywhere in your breast and often show up on a mammogram.
Marlowe urges, “If you find a lump or other change in your breast and haven’t yet gone through menopause, you may want to wait through one menstrual cycle before seeing your doctor. If the change hasn’t gone away after a month, have it evaluated promptly.”
Below are some strategies according to the American Cancer Society that may help decrease risk of breast cancer:
• Limit alcohol.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Stay physically active.
• Limit fat in your diet.
In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, St. Luke’s Hospital is sponsoring free breast exams. Women with no insurance or who do not have a regular doctor are candidates.
Exams will be offered Thursday, Oct. 27, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at St. Luke’s Hospital. Refreshments will be available. Appointments are necessary; call 828-894-2408 to check eligibility and schedule an exam.
– article submitted
by Jennifer Wilson

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