Did you know that 40% of breast cancer cases are discovered by women who felt lumps during self-exams? It doesn’t matter if cancer runs in your family or not. Every adult woman over the age of 20 should do a monthly breast self-exam.
While mammograms do help in early detection of cancer before lumps form, breast self-exams help you to become accustomed to what is normal for your breasts so you can let your doctor know if anything looks or feels different.
Self-exams should not be a substitute for mammograms, screening and other detection, but combined with routine medical care, they can give you an advantage that could save your life.
How To Preform A Breast Self-Exam
There are three widely accepted ways to perform the exam:
1. In The Mirror
With your arms at your sides and your shoulders straight, visually examine your breasts. Do the same with your arms raised over your head. Next, place your hands on your hips and press firmly to stretch your chest muscles. Remember that few women’s breasts match exactly, so don’t worry if yours are no totally balanced.
Here is a checklist of things to look for:
- Abnormal size, shape, or color
- Breasts not shaped evenly or distorted
- Lumpiness, wrinkling, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple that has moved or an inverted nipple (pushed in instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, itchiness, rash, or inflammation
If you do see any of these things, contact your doctor right away.
2. While Taking A Shower
Using the pads of your fingers while your hands are soapy, press in a circular motion around your entire breast. Be sure to move from the outer edge to the middle, examining the armpit area as well. Repeat with the other breast.
Do this procedure every month feeling for any lumps, thickening of the skin, or something that feels like a solid knot. Observe any changes and have lumps examined by your healthcare provider immediately.
3. While Lying Down
When you lie on your back, the breast tissue settles evenly along your chest. With a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head, use the pads of your fingers on your left hand to press gently around your entire breast. Move in small circles and cover the whole breast and armpit area.
Change the pressure as you go 0 using light, medium, and firm compression. Squeeze the nipple and examine for lumps, pain or discharge. Repeat these steps on the other side.
What If I Find A Lump?
If you do discover a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but try not to panic. Research shows that eight out of ten lumps are not breast cancer. For extra peace of mind, contact your doctor whenever you have concerns. There is no such thing as too much prevention.
Just like wearing a safety belt in the car can save your life, regular screenings, clinical exams, mammograms and breast self-exams can help you to detect cancer early. Please contact us if you have additional questions about performing the exam.