Once upon a time, lots of us would hang laminated placards in the shower that detailed a step-by-step guide to checking our breasts. The expectation: That you would examine your breasts in a very specific step-by-step manner every month and be on the lookout for anything that just felt different than usual.
Then, in 2015, the American Cancer Society (ACS) deemed these self-exams superfluous in terms of increasing overall breast cancer survival rates and even raised concern over unnecessary biopsies that ensued when women would find their own lumps and bumps. That’s why that year, the ACS announced that it no longer recommends breast self-exams as a screening tool for those women at average risk of developing breast cancer.
Bilateral breast cancer
is when tumors develop in both breasts of the same patient. Compared to unilateral (one side) breast cancer cases, bilateral breast cancer patients tend to be younger and the tumors smaller and of an earlier stage at diagnosis.
According to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database (1973–2014), bilateral cancers occurred in 1.4% of breast cancer patients in 1975 to 2.9% in 2014.
Other data sets show the incidence range of 1%–11% of breast cancer patients, depending on how the cases are defined and the time period of surveillance. It is difficult to know how often this type of cancer actually occurs because there isn’t optimal evidence differentiating between women who have had one or two primary cancers.
Symptoms of synchronous bilateral breast cancer consists of cancer signs and symptoms in both breasts. Symptoms may include:64
Swelling of all or part of a breast
Breast or nipple pain
Nipple retraction (turning inward)
Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking, or thickened
Swollen lymph nodes
No way I have breast cancer
You might have seen different guides outlining the types of boobs a person can have, but the truth is, the number of breast variations is unlimited. According to Pennsylvania-based gynecologist, Dr. Kelly Copeland, M.D., many factors can influence your breast appearance, including genetics, body weight, bone structure, nipple size, and shape. “You can imagine with so many factors the ‘types of boobs’ or variations in breast appearance can be infinite,” she says. “Types of breast shape, size, and how they lie on the chest wall have been suggested to fall into more specific groupings or types, but it’s important to know you may not perfectly fit into one of those types, and that doesn’t necessarily make you abnormal.”