13:05 PM

Breast health: What's normal, what's not

Even if you feel healthy now, just being a woman and getting older puts you at risk of breast cancer. Finding breast cancer early may save your life. 

Know What Normal Is for You

The signs of breast cancer are not the same for all women. It is important to know how your breasts normally look and feel. Performing a self-check once a month can help you become more familiar with the natural density and shape of your breasts, as well as catch any breast changes earlier. 

Many women find their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue often has a bumpy texture that varies from one woman to another. For some, the lumpiness is more obvious than for others. In most cases this is not a cause for worry. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, it is likely just normal breast tissue.

Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast tissue (or the tissue of the other breast) or that feel like a change are a concern. If you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms, see a doctor.

Signs You Should Not Ignore

Be aware of any change in your breast or underarm area. If you notice any of these signs, see a doctor.

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that does not go away

Need a Mammogram?

If you feel something strange or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, contact your primary care provider or schedule a mammogram. "Mammograms are the best screening tool we have to evaluate for breast cancer," says Cloe Shelton, MD, women's imaging radiologist at the Imaging Center. "When screening mammography was implemented and became widespread, the mortality rate from breast cancer decreased 40% across the USA. Screening is sometimes done with MRI and Ultrasound, but it is almost always used in conjunction with mammography."

Starting on October 5, the Imaging Center at The HealthCenter will now have a mammography clinic featuring screening exams every other Saturday from 8 a.m.- Noon. To schedule an appointment call 406-751-9729.

To learn more about breast health services at Kalispell Regional Healthcare visit www.KRH.org/BreastHealth.