We all know we are supposed to be doing our monthly breast self-examinations. But, do you remember and do you do it correctly? Early detection of breast cancer, through monthly breast self-exam and particularly yearly mammography after age 40, offers the best chance for survival. Ninety-six percent of women who find and treat breast cancer early will be cancer-free after five years.
When Should You Examine Your Breasts Each Month?: Pre-menopausal women should be examining their breast on the last day of their cycle. Your breasts will be less dense from hormones at this time, and it is an easy reminder.
How Should You Examine Your Breast?: I recommend doing your examination in the shower. I do not recommend using loofah scrubs in the shower, as you will not be able to find any abnormal lumps or changes in your breasts. A wet, soapy hand will allow you to easily examine and note any differences.
How To Do A Breast Self-Examination:
Stand in front of a mirror and look for any changes in your breast. Look both from a frontal view and a profile view. Look in 3 different positions
a) With arms up behind your head,
b) With your arms down at your sides,
c) Bending forward
You are looking for any changes in:
- Bumps/Lumps – Some nodularity may be normal, and may change throughout the month. Concerning are the lumps that appear, and get larger or do not fluctuate.
- Contour/Symmetry – Is there a difference between the levels of your breast? Do both breasts look symmetrical?
- Sores or Scaling Skin on your breast
- Skin Discoloration or Sampling
- Discharge or Puckering of the Nipple
When you perform your monthly breast self-exam, pick a pattern and always stick with it. Make sure you examine: a) The breast, b) between the breast and underarm, c) the underarm itself, and d) the area above the breast up to the collarbone and across your shoulder.
If you find a lump or abnormality, I encourage you to make an appointment to see your health care provider for a clinical breast examination.
Every woman should begin their mammograms no later than the age of forty. If you have a first degree family member with breast cancer or you have increased risk factors, you will probably be encouraged to begin mammograms early. You should have a mammogram yearly. I encourage you to have your mammogram around your birthday, and then you won’t forget it.
Talk to your female friends, take a buddy and go get those mammograms. Mammograms save lives. Early detection and treatment of breast cancer has an excellent prognosis. There is no excuse not to take care of yourself!
The Breast Examination: