Statistically, the chances of a woman developing breast or ovarian cancer in her 20s and 30s are not overwhelmingly high, even in high-risk populations. However it does happen. And if it happens to you, those statistics are irrelevant. That is why it is critical, even at a young age, to know how these cancers can present themselves and what you should be doing to screen for them.
Get in the routine of scheduling a yearly appointment with a doctor you trust, even when you feel completely healthy.
Being proactive with your health means doing whatever you can to lower your chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer. It also means making sure that if breast and ovarian cancer do develop they are caught early, in a treatable stage. After all, with early detection and treatment, the five-year survival rate for breast and ovarian cancer soars to more than 90%!
Breast cancer symptoms can vary widely — from lumps to dimpling of the skin to changes in breast size, shape and color. It is important to get to know what is normal for your body and bring any changes that do not go away to your doctor’s attention.
What is Normal
If These Symptoms Don’t Go Away, See Your Doctor
When checking your breasts, be sure to check up to your collar bone, in to your breast bone, over to the sides and in your armpits. If you notice any changes, grab a journal, mark what the change is, where is is occurring on the breast and date it. Check back in 2-3 weeks and if it is still there or has gotten worse, be sure to visit a doctor you trust. Keep in mind that it does not mean you have cancer. In fact, 80% of breast lumps are not cancerous and there are a variety of reasons your body can develop changes. For example, breast tissue responds to our bodies’ normal hormones. That’s why some of us feel tenderness or lumpiness in our breasts around our periods. If a lump or change goes away after your period is over, chances are its nothing to worry about.
Unfortunately, it’s much tougher to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage. Symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and often confused with digestive or menstrual problems. For average-risk women, there are no routine screening tests for ovarian cancer. That’s why it’s important to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
If you experience any of the following symptoms that are new to you and persist for more than two weeks, see your gynecologist.
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
Make a date with a doctor you trust at least once a year—even when you feel completely healthy. Your doctor is an important partner in your proactive approach to your breast and ovarian health. Make sure you find one you feel comfortable enough to talk to and ask questions of during your appointment. Remember, it’s ok to date around until you find the perfect match.
Your annual exam should include:
If you are a young woman at high-risk for breast or ovarian cancer or have a history of these cancers in your family, find out what other early detection methods are available to you.