FLINT -- (10/23/2017) -- When most think about checking for breast cancer, immediately the mind goes to lumps in the breast. But there are more signs that you should know about.
"Catching it early - that stage 1, stage 2, they even catch it before it gets that bad now, before it's even noticeable it might be a little fleck on the mammogram," said Emily Snitgen, who's currently fighting cancer. "It can be caught so easily and it can be stopped easily at that point."
Snitgen is fighting stage four cancer - discovered last year when she was having extreme back pain. Working as a baker, having just moved, and having two little kids - she tried to work through it, until she had trouble getting out of bed.
"I couldn't stand up," Snitgen said. "And I was still making myself because I had to go to work and stuff for the kids and all that. My husband took to me the clinics and hospitals, ERs - originally we just assumed I was big, and that I damaged one of my discs. During that time I did a self exam and had found something small, underneath - didn't think much of it. I mean, I'm young, at the time I was 26 years old and I didn't think anything of it."
At her doctor's after about a month of excruciating back pain, she mentioned the lump - and her doctor scheduled a mammogram.
"It was just one after another, after another - the mammogram didn't look right so we did the ultrasound, the ultrasound didn't look right so we ended up doing a biopsy, and eventually it did come back stage four breast cancer," Snitgen said. Had I thought it could've been that bad, probably would've gotten it checked sooner."
Stage four means Snitgen has spots in her breasts, lymphnodes, and beyond.
"It's actually in my bones, that's why I had the back pain as my first symptom because it was in the spine and was crushing one of the discs," said Snitgen.
Pain in other parts of the body often means a tougher fight.
"It could be stage one, but with breast cancer, more than likely, the symptoms come after the breast cancer has already formed," said Dr. Sierra Cuthpert, DO, a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at Hurley Medical Center. "Once you get these symptoms, that means the lump is big enough to obstruct something or make something happen. So normally they've already had the breast cancer."
And there are other symptoms.
"Other signs of breast cancer can be pain. Nipple discharge. Especially coming out of both nipples."
The entire breast may become swollen, the nipple may turn inward, and the lumps - which can be round or more jagged - can also be painful. There can also be skin dimpling, redness, or simple irritation.
"You know how you get a sore and you get a scab? They can have scabbing of the breast that is not contributed to trauma," Cuthpert said.
And if you have these symptoms? "Don't wait," said Cuthpert. "Come in. As soon as you see something abnormal - you have a scab on your breast, you know you didn't have any trauma - come in and be evaluated. You feel a lump? Come in. Any nipple discharge - especially bloody discharge - come in immediately."
Make sure to come in at least every other year to have a physician do a breast exam, and keep up with your mammograms when you're of age. Also, simply know your body.
"Starting at 21, women should know their breasts," Cuthpert said. "You have to feel your breasts, know the shape, the contour, how they look in the mirror, any changes - speak to your physician."
Snitgen is currently doing chemo. Her tumor marker numbers are now small and she says she is feeling stronger and better everyday. Hurley has taken over her mortgage payment which will help her to continue treatment.
In the month of October many places have free mammograms, and Hurley can assist with getting you the help you need.