Annual mammograms and breast checks with providers (such as your gynecologist or primary care physician) are imperative, but that doesn’t change the need to check yourself every month. Monthly self breast checks should be done by every woman to check for breast irregularities. Any acute concerns such as pain, discharge or retraction of the skin should be attended to immediately. If you have a family history, mammograms before the age of 40 may be recommended as directed by your provider.
Johns Hopkins Medical Center states, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”
Breast cancer detection
Breast cancer can’t be prevented, but you can take important steps to help detect it earlier. You can read the 3 steps to early detection provided by Nationalbreastcancer.org so you can increase your chance of finding breast cancer before it spreads.
Women of all ages are encouraged to perform self breast exams every month. While mammograms can help detect cancer before you feel a lump, self breast exams help you get familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you’ll realize when changes occur.
How Should A Breast Self-Exam Be Performed?
1) In the Shower:
Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and including the armpit area where the tail of the breast is located. Check both breasts each month, feeling for any lumps, thickening, or hardened knots.
Many breasts have a lumpy, bumpy consistency. If you feel a small lump, mark where it lies as though it’s on a clock. So, midway on the inside of the beast would be three o’clock. If it is still in that location the next month when you do a breast check, follow up with your provider. But don’t panic- 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.
2) In Front of a Mirror:
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match-few women’s breasts do- so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes on each breast independently.
3) Lying Down:
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Men with breast tissue should check themselves regularly as well. According to Nationalbreastcancer.org, “Even though males do not develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. Even so, male breast cancer is very rare. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.” Unfortunately, the mortality rate is also higher amongst men due to an increased level of late detection.
Stay proactive with your healthcare-early detection increases the potential for great outcomes.
Supplemental information provided by nationalbreastcancer.org