Have You Checked Your Breasts Lately?
Did you know that up to 40% of diagnosed breast cancers come from women who felt a lump at home? Breast self-examination is one of the most important steps you can take for your health. Breast cancer is not considered a rare disease. In fact, invasive breast cancer affects about 1 in 8 U.S. women! Doing your part to prevent serious consequences from breast cancer only takes a few minutes of your time and can be done in the privacy of your own home.
Women of all ages are encouraged to perform a self-exam of their breasts at least once a month. Routine self-exams allow you to familiarize yourself with your breasts so that you can quickly detect changes if and when they occur. If you feel a suspicious lump or notice a sudden discharge from your nipple, you should contact your gynecologist immediately. As with most cancers, early detection means more successful treatment.
Step-by-Step Guide to a Breast Self-Exam
Many women choose to perform their self-exam in the shower. Use the pads of your fingers to feel and move around your entire breast. Use a circular pattern that works from the outside to the center. Don’t forget your armpit area as well. You’ll want to specifically feel for new knots, thickening or lumps – which can be very small.
Your exam shouldn’t stop there. You also need to take a good look at your breasts while standing in front of the mirror with your arms by your sides. Are there any changes in the shape or texture of your breasts or nipples? Next, lift both arms above your head and check again for unusual swelling or shape changes in your breasts.
Finally, evaluate your breasts when lying down and putting one hand behind your head. This position allows your breast tissues to spread across your chest wall, often making it easier to feel lumps. After you feel your entire breast in a circular motion, gently squeeze your nipple to check for discharge
It may feel awkward or embarrassing to perform your self-exam at first, even if you are alone and behind closed doors. However, this simple task, once per month, can literally save your life. At North Pointe OB/GYN, we perform breast exams during your annual checkups. However, we value the importance of making sure each woman (regardless of her age) knows how to perform evaluations at home. We can also tell you when you need to have your next mammogram to assess your breast health even further.