Screening & Self-Awareness
Practicing Breast and Ovarian Self-Awareness means understanding more than just signs and symptoms—it’s your family history, monitoring any changes in your body, and understanding how lifestyle decisions may affect your health.
Everybody’s breasts are different – different sizes, shapes, and with various types of lumps that may come and go. What’s standard for you may not be your friend’s “normal.” Get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts by checking in with your body regularly. Look at and touch your breast tissue from multiple angles with varying pressure to feel both the deep and surface layers, from the interior by your ribs to just below the skin. Don’t forget that your breast tissue extends up your collarbone, around to your armpits, and into your breastbone.
If you notice any of these symptoms that persist or worsen for 2-3 weeks, see your doctor:
- Swelling, soreness or rash
- Warmth, redness or darkening
- Change in size or shape
- Dimpling or puckering of skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on nipple
- Nipple that becomes flat or inverted
- Nipple discharge
- New, persistent pain in one spot
- Persistent itching
- Bumps that resemble bug bites
- A lump, particularly one that feels like a frozen pea
Don’t forget your ovaries. To be Ovarian Self-Aware, you also need to know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and what’s normal for your body. When you know what’s normal for you, you’ll be more likely to notice any changes—and speak up should they occur.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and often confused with digestive or menstrual complaints. If you notice any of these symptoms that persist or worsen for 2-3 weeks, see your doctor and ask “could it be my ovaries?:
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Needing to urinate urgently or often
- Upset stomach or heartburn
- Back pain
- Pain during intercourse
- Menstrual changes
The Power of Early Detection
When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for breast and ovarian cancers can be greater than 92%!
Get Health Screenings
Talk to your healthcare provider about these options for early detection. Remember, your breast and ovarian health management plan should be personalized based on your specific risk level.
Average Risk Surveillance: Breast Cancer
For women with no family history or genetic predisposition:
- Annual Mammogram starting at 40. Bright Pink stands with most major medical associations and guidelines in recommending annual mammograms starting at 40 for women at average risk.
Increased Risk Surveillance: Breast Cancer
Women with a low-penetrance genetic mutation or family history:
- Annual Mammogram starting at 40 OR 10 years before your relative’s breast cancer diagnosis. If you have a family history of breast cancer, screening should start 10 years before the age at which your youngest relative was diagnosed, but not before age 30.
- MRIs might be an option. Depending on your family history and the factors placing you at increased risk, you may be eligible for breast MRI, alternating with mammograms every six months. Be sure to discuss your elevated risk with your provider to determine the best screening plan for you.
- If you have dense breasts, consider Digital Mammography (2D) or Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (3D). While the benefit of digital mammography over standard film mammography has not been proven amongst the average risk population, digital mammography has been proven to be more accurate in young women (under 50 years old) with dense breasts. Additionally, Digital Breast Tomosynthesis has been shown to be better at finding abnormalities in dense breast tissue than traditional mammography. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if this screening options are available.
Women who have had chest radiation exposure between the ages of 10-30 years old:
- Get a breast MRI annually starting at 10 years after your radiation therapy, but not before 25. Breast MRI should be performed annually beginning at age 25 to 30. (10 years after radiation but not prior to 25)
- Get a Mammogram yearly starting 10 years after your radiation therapy, but not before 30. Women who have received radiation to the chest between the ages of 10-30 should be screened with mammography every year starting 10 years after your radiation therapy, but not prior to 30 years old unless MRI is not available to you
- Consider Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (3D imaging). Digital Breast Tomosynthesis has been shown to be better than traditional mammography at finding abnormalities in breast tissue that has been exposed to radiation. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if this screening option is available.
High Risk Surveillance: Breast & Ovarian Cancer
Women at high risk for breast cancer due to a genetic mutation should receive:
- Semi-annual clinical breast exams starting at age 25.
- Breast MRIs yearly starting at 20
- Mammography yearly starting at 30.
Women at high risk for ovarian cancer due to a genetic mutation should receive:
- A pelvic exam. During this exam, your provider manually feeling your ovaries to check for anything out of the ordinary.
- A trans-vaginal ultrasound & A CA-125 blood test starting at 30
It’s important to note that surveillance for high ovarian cancer risk has not been proven to be as effective as risk-reducing surgery. Ultimately, women at high risk for ovarian cancer due to a genetic mutation will be recommended to pursue risk reducing surgery. While not as effective of an alternative, the following may be considered before the operation, as many choose to delay this procedure until after childbearing years or based on when ovarian cancer has presented itself in the family’s history.