When Caryl Engstrom, 49, found a lump in her right breast, she immediately knew something was wrong. Despite a normal mammogram two months earlier and recent breast exams by her internist and gynecologist, who found nothing amiss, Engstrom knew she needed to call her doctor immediately. "I just had a gut feeling. It was a sizable lump and just didn't feel right to me."
Engstrom's suspicions turned out to be correct when a biopsy revealed she had stage 2 breast cancer.
Acupuncture applies needles, heat, pressure, and other treatments to one or more places on the skin known as acupuncture points (see Question 1).
Acupuncture has been used in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years as part of traditional Chinese medicine (see Question 2).
Acupuncture has been used in the United States for about 200 years (see Question 2).
Acupuncture is used to treat many illnesses and ailments; however, it is mainly used to control pain, including...
Although almost 65% of women over 40 have had a mammogram in the last two years, according to the CDC, cancer isn't always caught by screening tests.
Moreover, when women do suspect something, fear sometimes prevents them from seeing a doctor right away, says Beth Y. Karlan, MD, director of the Women's Cancer Research Program at Cedars-Sinai's Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute in Los Angeles. Or women minimize or misinterpret symptoms that could indicate cancer.
"They say, 'Oh, this bloating is nothing. It can wait,'" says Karlan. "There's this idea that if you look into it, if you acknowledge the symptoms, then something is going to change in your life, and you don't want it to change.
"But warning signs do not mean cancer," she adds. "Even if you have all of them. There are many other benign diagnoses or physiological changes that can also cause warning signs." For instance, you can have bloating, low back pain, and pelvic pressure and just have fibroids, says Karlan.
But if your symptoms are "persistent and progressive," she says, "meaning you wake up every morning and feel something and it has you worried -- even for two weeks in a row -- it really is worth calling your physician and having it checked out."
Regular checkups and screenings such as Pap smears and mammograms, as well as knowing your own body, are all crucial for good health, Karlan adds.
Which changes are worth bringing to your doctor's attention? We've asked experts about the signs and symptoms you most want to keep on your radar screen.
1. Breast Changes
"If you feel a lump, you shouldn't ignore it, even if your mammogram is normal," says Carolyn Runowicz, MD, a breast cancer survivor and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Florida International University's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and past president of the American Cancer Society. If your nipple develops scaliness or flaking, that could indicate Paget’s disease of the nipple, which is associated with an underlying cancer in about 95% of cases. Any milky or bloody nipple discharge should also be checked out.
Dimpling of the skin over the breast, particularly if it looks like the skin on an orange, "is something to be worried about," says Karlan. Such dimpling is most often associated with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare, usually aggressive cancer characterized also by swollen, hot, red breasts.