Breast exams are an important part of women’s healthcare routine. They are used to detect any abnormalities in the breast tissue and identify any potential signs of breast cancer. If you are planning to have a breast exam, there are several things that you should know to prepare yourself for the procedure.
In the first part of this guide, we cover the basics of breast exams, including tips for preparing yourself with the exam proper. Here are some things you need to know.
Understand the Types of Breast Exams
There are three types of breast exams: self breast exams, clinical breast exams and mammograms. Self breast exams are performed by the patient herself. The best time to perform a breast self exam is right after the period, or pick a date that’s easy to remember.
Clinical breast exams are typically performed by a healthcare provider during a physical exam. During the exam, the provider will feel for any lumps or abnormalities in the breast tissue.
Mammograms are a type of imaging test that uses X-rays to create images of the breast tissue. Mammograms are typically recommended for women over the age of 40, or for women who are at higher risk for breast cancer.
Know When to Schedule Your Exam
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends that women receive a clinical breast exam at least once every three years starting at the age of 20. Women who are at higher risk for breast cancer may need to have more frequent exams.
If you have a family history of breast cancer, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and when you should start having regular breast exams.
Prepare for Your Exam
Before your exam, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself. Wear comfortable clothing that is easy to remove, as you may need to undress from the waist up for the exam.
Avoid wearing any lotions, perfumes, or deodorants on the day of the exam, as these products can interfere with the results. If you are having a mammogram, bring any previous images with you to the appointment.
During Your Exam
During your exam, your healthcare provider will ask you about your medical history and any symptoms you may be experiencing. They will then perform a physical exam, feeling for any lumps or abnormalities in the breast tissue.
If you are having a mammogram, you will be asked to stand in front of a machine while a technician takes images of your breast tissue. The procedure is typically painless, but some women may experience mild discomfort or pressure.
Understanding the Results
After your exam, your healthcare provider will review the results with you. If any abnormalities or lumps are detected, your provider may order further testing, such as a biopsy, to determine if the tissue is cancerous.
If the results are normal, you will typically be advised to continue with regular breast exams and mammograms as recommended.
Breast exams are an important part of women’s healthcare. They can help detect any abnormalities in the breast tissue and identify early signs of breast cancer. By staying informed and taking an active role in your healthcare, you can help ensure that you are doing everything you can to maintain your breast health. In part 2 of this guide, we will discuss the importance of breast exams and additional health implications.
When it comes to breast health, you can trust Barbara A. Hessel, MD. FACOG. We are an OBGYN clinic in Forest Hills, NY that can help you assess your overall well-being. Get in touch with us today to learn how.