How to Be a Detective for Early Breast Cancer Detection!

We, as women, grow up learning and hearing about breast cancer.  We see the pink ribbons everywhere and learn about other women’s experiences with the disease in TV shows, movies, and books. We don our pink clothing and accessories for breast cancer awareness every October, and commend our hometown athletes for doing the same.  It is, more or less, ingrained in our minds from a very young age that—yes, breast cancer is a threat, and—yes, it could even happen to us someday.  But…do we really ever think it will be us? And…if it would be us, wouldn’t we want to know as early as possible?


There are many aspects of adulthood that aren’t exactly a walk in the park, and taking responsibility for our health is one of them.  Taking the initiative to make appointments with our doctors can feel like a pain, especially when balancing a busy work schedule and home life!  Also, when you already spend your working hours in a hospital or medical facility, being there during your time off can be less than appealing.  However, you owe it to yourself to do everything in your power to ensure you can live your life to the fullest for as long as possible! If you practice early prevention and detection, you can kick breast cancer before it’s even had the chance to cause you harm. You can be your own early detection detective!

Know the Signs and Symptoms!

First and foremost, you’ll need to know what the warning signs or indicators of breast cancer are.

Breast Mass or Lump

The biggest indicator of breast cancer would be finding a lump or mass.  According to the American Cancer Society, a mass that is hard with irregular edges is more likely to be cancerous.  However, masses that are rounded, soft, or tender can also be cancer-causing.  With that in mind, it is best to play it safe, and consult your doctor or a specialist if you notice a new mass or lump, regardless of its characteristics.

Other Symptoms

Other indicators of breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, are:

  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Discharge that is not breast milk
  • Tenderness or pain
  • Swelling, even if no lump is felt
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the skin on the breast region
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • A lump or swelling in the lymph nodes under the arm or near the collar bone

If you detect any of these symptoms, do not hesitate! Make an appointment with your doctor or OB/GYN right away.

Take Advantage of Early Detection Screenings

Looking for signs and symptoms is obviously crucial, but the ultimate goal is to identify the cancer before it even has the chance to create those symptoms.  If breast cancer is found during an early screening exam, it is more likely to be smaller and contained only in the breast, making it a lot easier to eliminate, and allowing a much greater chance of survival.  Some different types of breast cancer screenings are as follows:

Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)

This exam assesses the appearance and feeling of your underarm, breast, and area below your breast bone for abnormalities, such as masses or lumps. This is commonly done during a routine physical or an annual exam with your OB/GYN.  This exam is not full-proof, and should not be your only resource for early breast cancer detection.  However, it is important to be comfortable and familiar with your own body in case threatening changes occur.


The science of mammography creates images, or mammograms, of the breast with the use of X-rays. Radiologists then study the mammograms to look for warning signs of breast cancer.  This technology has improved drastically over the years, going from film, to digital, to even 3D imaging.

It is widely believed to be the most effective breast cancer screening tool available.  It is also extremely useful as a diagnostic tool when something abnormal is found during a clinical breast exam or mammogram screening, and a follow-up is needed.  Breast tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, can also be used along with the standard 2D digital mammograms.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that while it is known as the most effective screening tool for breast cancer, it is still not 100% perfect.  Mammography requires small amounts of radiation, which has been cause for some concern, but, according to the Susan G. Komen foundation, studies show that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Download our resource guide below for helpful information regarding free and low-cost mammograms!


Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This technology creates images of the breast using a combination of magnetic fields and a contrast agent, given intravenously.  Breast MRI is only recommended to be used as a screening tool for women who are at higher than average risk of developing breast cancer, as it is a more invasive procedure.  That includes women with a heightened family history of breast cancer, and women who have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.   Consult with your doctor to assess if this screening is necessary for you.

We can’t know what will happen from one day to the next, but we can take responsibility for our overall health and well-being, and educate those around us.  If you are a nurse or healthcare professional, use your talents and knowledge to encourage your family and friends to be their own early detection detectives, and defeat breast cancer in its early stages.  We can’t afford to wait until it’s too late!

Free Download: Breast Cancer Screening Resources

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Author: Michelle Adams

Posted by Michelle Adams on Oct 14, 2016 12:21:31 PM
Michelle Adams, Advertising and Social Media Specialist for Capital Healthcare Solutions and Harmony Home Healthcare, enjoys life in Southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and beloved dog.


  • creehack (#)
    March 5th, 2017

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this post!
    It is the little changes that will make the largest
    changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    • Michelle Adams (#)
      April 3rd, 2017

      Thank you for the feedback! I hope you continue to enjoy our weekly blogs!

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