Understanding Breast Cancer: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

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No one knows more about your body than you do – not your partner, not your parents, not even your doctor. So when you talk with a health care provider about your health, remember that you have valuable information to share. You know about changes in your body and about any problems you may be having. Share that information. Open and honest communication between you and your doctor is one of the best ways to make sure you get the care you deserve.

To get the most out of each doctor’s visit, try following these guidelines:

  1. Be prepared. It is often helpful to gather information about your health concerns — from the library (books and medical journals), trusted Internet sites, etc. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be talking to your doctor.
  2. Organize your questions ahead of time. You should be able to talk openly and honestly with your doctor about breast health and breast cancer to make sure all of your questions are answered. To help you get started, Susan G. Komen® has a series of 17 Questions to Ask the Doctor topic cards on a variety of breast cancer issues. Each card contains important questions to discuss with your doctor. Space is provided for you to jot down the answers. Also, be sure to bring a voice recorder to capture your conversation so you can refer back to your doctor’s responses. These questions will help your doctor understand and address your specific concerns. You can download and print these cards to take to your next doctor’s appointment at www.komen.org/questions.
  3. Tell your story. When your doctor comes in, ask if you can take a few minutes to briefly explain your situation and concerns. Be as specific as you can. Then, give the doctor your list of questions and ask them.
  4. Give feedback. If your doctor’s responses were helpful, say so. This kind of feedback will encourage your doctor to talk with you, listen to you and continue to help you. Doctors are just like anyone else; they want to do their job well. That means doing whatever they can to help you stay healthy or to get better. Remember, although doctors may know a great deal about breast health and breast cancer, they may not truly understand or be aware of all that you are going through. You can help your doctor help you by sharing your feelings and concerns. 

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/TalkingWithYourDoctor.html

Breast Cancer Education: Know What is Normal for You

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The warning signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. The most common symptoms are a change in the look or feel of the breast, a change in the look or feel of the nipple and nipple discharge.

Know what is normal for your breasts and nipples, and see a doctor if you notice any of these  changes

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that does not go away

In most cases, the changes are not cancerous. However, the only way to be sure is to see a doctor. If you have breast cancer, the survival rate is highest if found in the early stages.

It is important to remember that each person’s breasts are different. So, some women may find that their breasts feel lumpy all the time. This can be due to the natural bumpy texture of breast tissue. If the lumpy texture can be felt throughout the whole breast and the breasts feel like each other, then it is likely normal breast tissue. However, if the lumps feel harder or different in one section of the breast, or one breast compared to the other breast, it should be checked out. This type of lump could be breast cancer or a benign breast condition.

Nipple discharge is another change that can be uncomfortable, but is rarely cancer. The discharge could be the body’s natural reaction to the nipple being squeezed.

If you notice nipple discharge that is any of the following see a doctor:

  • Occurs without squeezing the nipple
  • Is bloody or clear (not milky)
  • Occurs in only one breast

Nipple discharge can be the sign of an infection or other condition that needs treatment. See a doctor if you have any nipple discharge.

See the breast cancer warning signs at http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/WarningSigns.html