National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here's what you need to know about detecting breast cancer.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. While we can’t prevent breast cancer, we can make sure that every woman has the tools and education she needs to be proactive about her health.

Facts About Breast Cancer In The United States

  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 252,710 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,500 will die.
  • Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 460 will die each year.
  • On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
  • Over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.

The first step you can take is to know how your breasts normally look and feel. These tests may not be perfect, but breast cancer self-exams can help women stay on top of their health by watching for any changes and bringing them to a doctor's attention.

However, performing a breast self-exam does not take the place of regular mammograms and other screening tests. Because mammography can detect tumors before they can be felt, screening is very important for early detection. And early breast cancer detection has been linked to higher chances of survival. Speak to your doctor about how often you should be screened for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new lump or mass. A painless, hard mass that has irregular edges is more likely to be cancer, but breast cancers can be tender, soft or rounded. In some cases, the mass may be painful. Regardless of the specifics of the mass, report any new breast mass, lump, or change to your health care provider to have it evaluated further.

Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include the following:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast, even if no distinct lump can be felt
  • Skin irritation or dimpling that may be similar in appearance to an orange peel
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

How to Conduct a Breast Self-Exam

Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and your hands placed firmly on your hips. According to, you should check your breasts for changes in color, shape and size. Bring any changes — like dimpling or bulging of the skin, nipple changes, redness, rash, swelling and soreness — to your doctor's attention.

Step 2: Bring your hands together straight above your head. In this position, check your breasts for the same changes. Also look for any fluid discharge from the nipples.

Step 3: Lie down and put a pillow beneath your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head, the National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends. With the first few fingers of your left hand, make small, circular motions around your right breast and armpit, feeling for lumps. Make sure to use a firm and smooth touch. Keep your fingers flat and together. Repeat for the left breast.

Step 4: Perform another exam while standing in the shower. Check for any lumps or other changes by pressing your breasts and armpits with the pads of your fingers. If you notice any changes, tell your doctor as soon as you can, but don't panic. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, around 8 out of 10 lumps on the breasts are actually not cancerous.

When Is the Best Time to Perform a Breast Self-Exam?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, women should perform a breast self-exam around the same time every month. The timing becomes important because breast tissue is affected by the normal hormonal fluctuations in women's bodies. Performing a self-exam at the same time each month can help women differentiate between a normal change and something that feels different.

For example, women who have not gone through menopause are recommended to perform their breast self-exam toward the end of their menstrual period. The end of the menstrual cycle is the time when the breasts are the least tender and the changes in hormones are less likely to affect the breast tissue. Women who have gone through menopause are recommended to select a day of the month and consistently perform their self-exam on that particular day.

If you have any questions or concerns about breast cancer, speak with your health care provider.

It is also important to know your numbers! Which numbers are we talking about? Your hormone levels! Estrone is the main estrogen your body produces post-menopausally. It is derived from estradiol. High levels of estrone stimulate breast and uterine tissue, many researchers believe this increases your risks for developing breast and uterine cancer. We offer a hormone test kit that utilizes your saliva to test your hormone levels. It is important to balance your hormone levels so that they can work in the most optimized way. For more information on our hormone test kits you can e-mail our pharmacists at

Citation: National Breast Cancer Foundation, "Breast Self-Exam", "The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam"American Cancer Society, "Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms"Johns Hopkins Medicine,