Practice 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.

More Than a Breast Exam

Breast Self-Awareness is the key when it comes to early detection. Everybody’s breasts are different, so it’s about getting to know the normal look and feel of your breasts, and speaking up if you notice any changes. It also means knowing your family history (and whether it increases your risk), the signs and symptoms of cancer, and how the lifestyle decisions you make in your daily life play a role in increasing or decreasing your risk.

What’s Your Normal?

We all have different breasts – 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,” but what’s most important are changes.

Keep tabs on yourself to make sure your breasts are their usual size, shape, and color. 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

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Be Ovarian Self-Aware

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, so never be afraid to ask your doctor, “Could it be my ovaries?”

If you notice any of these symptoms that persist or worsen for 2-3 weeks, see your doctor:

  • Bloating

  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain

  • Needing to urinate urgently or often

  • Other symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue

  • Upset stomach or heartburn

  • Back pain

  • Pain during intercourse

  • Constipation

  • Menstrual changes

  • These are symptoms that we as women may feel all the time. They can be symptoms of digestive or menstrual issues and often, they are associated with benign pelvic masses, like ovarian cysts. Most women will develop an ovarian cyst at some point in their lives, which are usually harmless and may go away on their own. However, more serious conditions like ovarian cancer can cause pelvic masses.

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