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Q&A: Beat breast cancer

As a woman, the more familiar you are with your breasts — including what's normal and what's not — the easier it is to protect your health.

"Being aware of breast changes can help you catch cancer earlier," says Lake Regional Oncologist Maggi Coplin, M.D., noting that more than 90% of women diagnosed with early breast cancer survive. "Yet women also need to know that not every change means cancer."

Here, Dr. Coplin provides answers to a few common questions.

Q: Is it normal to get lumps in your breasts?

A: Yes. For example, temporary lumps might appear near your period. Also, as menopause nears, your breasts may feel lumpier. Even so, tell your doctor about any change you notice. Don't wait for your next mammogram to have it checked.

Q: Besides a lump, what other changes require a call to my doctor?

A: Tell your doctor if you notice:

  • Thick or firm tissue in or near your breast or under your arm
  • Any change in the size or shape of your breast
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk) that comes out by itself
  • A nipple that points inward toward the breast
  • Skin on your breast that is itchy, red, scaling or puckered

Q: Can I lower my risk of getting breast cancer?

A: Yes. Start by identifying your specific risk factors. Women with different risk factors need different prevention plans.

If you are concerned about your breast cancer risk, I am available to advise and help you.

Sources: American Cancer Society; National Cancer Institute

Maggi Coplin, M.D., has more than 10 years of experience caring for women with breast cancer and those at risk for the disease. She has a master's in nutrition and completed a fellowship in integrative medicine, which focuses on health promotion and disease prevention.

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