Knowing how your breasts normally look and feel is an extremely important part of breast health and could make all the difference in the event of finding out that you or someone you know has developed breast cancer; catching it as early as possible gives you a better chance of successful treatment. But knowing what to look for does not, and should not, take the place of having regular mammograms and other screening tests. Screening tests can help find breast cancer in its early stages, even before any symptoms appear.
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. They can even be painful. For this reason, it is important to have any new breast mass or lump or breast change checked by a doctor.

Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:

Swelling of all or part of a breast, even if no distinct lump is felt
Skin irritation or dimpling
Breast or nipple pain
Nipple retraction, where it turns inward
Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
Nipple discharge -other than breast milk
Sometimes a breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes under the arm or around the collar bone and cause a lump or swelling there, even before the original tumor in the breast tissue is large enough to be felt. Swollen lymph nodes should also be checked by a doctor.

Although any of these symptoms can be caused by things other than breast cancer, if you have them, it is advised that you visit a doctor so that he can confirm or deny the same. It is also important to note that mammograms do not find every breast cancer, so you should be aware of changes in your breasts and to know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer to catch it early enough.

Early Detection:

Finding breast cancer early and getting state-of-the-art cancer treatment are the most important ways to prevent deaths as a result of breast cancer. Breast cancer thatís found early, when itís small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully, with minimal impact. And the only way to ensure that it doesnít slip under the radar is to undergo regular screening tests. They are ways of detecting the disease before any of the symptoms are experienced, and is what enables early detection. Breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis of a woman with this disease.

There are some guidelines, that have been released by the American Cancer Society, to help women at average risk detect breast cancer as early as possible and they are as follows:

Women between 40 and 44 should ideally start screening with a mammogram every year.

Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.

All women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a medical practitioner right away.

All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer test Ė what the test can and cannot do.