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The Importance of Breast Self Examination

This is a patient education video that explains the anatomy of the female breast and the importance of breast self-examination as a part of screening. Here’s more information from our companion website,

Screening mammography and clinical breast examinations are done to check for lumps or other signs that may indicate breast cancer. Detection of a lump is just the first step in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Next steps may involve imaging studies and/or a biopsy to determine whether the lump is benign or malignant; if the lump is cancer, a range of subsequent tests are done to identify tumor markers of breast cancer, such as estrogen and progesterone receptors, human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2), and others. Advances in technology now also enable testing the tumor for its genetic profile, which provides important information about the possibility of recurrence.

One of the most important factors in planning treatment is the extent of disease. Your physician and a pathologist will work together to determine the stage and grade of the tumor. If there are signs that cancer has spread beyond the breast, other imaging studies may be done to determine the location of metastasis.

Taken together, the results of tumor marker testing, the genetic profile, and the stage and grade of disease allow oncologists to practice personalized cancer medicine; that is, to develop a treatment plan that targets the unique characteristics of an individual’s tumor. The patient’s age and general health also contribute to the selection of “best” therapy.

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