Know Thy Breasts

by Dr. Tiffany Berry, fellowship trained breast surgeon with Norton Healthcare

Most breast cancers in the United States are found at an early age with the widespread use of screening mammograms. However, some breast cancers initially present as changes noticed by the women themselves. So, know thy breasts. In my office women sometimes confess to me, their breast surgeon, that they do not perform monthly breast exams. I am sure they feel a certain sense of guilt (kind of like I do when I tell my dentist that I do not floss regularly). I reassure them that they should not feel guilty, but know what signs to look out for in the breasts:

  • Lump, hard knot, or thickening
  • Swelling, warmth, or redness
  • Change in the size or shape
  • Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Black, bloody, or clear nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

In most cases, the changes are not breast cancer. However, if you do find a change, it is best to seek help early when your treatment options and survival will be the best.

Would you go to a hairstylist who has limited experience coloring hair before and ask for highlights? I have and wouldn’t recommend it. The same is true for doctors. If one of the above signs does occur, I recommend that you start by first contacting your OB-GYN or family doctor. However, if further interventions are needed, you should seek the help of a specialist. Not all doctors are created equal. If you need a biopsy or surgery on the breasts, then seek help from a physician or surgeon who specializes in the treatment of breast diseases. Practice makes perfect. So, a high volume breast surgeon will likely have the experience and talents needed to provide you with the best care possible. It could save your life!

Dr. Tiffany Berry is a fellowship trained breast surgeon. You can reach her office at 502-629-4500.