All about breast self exams
One in seven women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in her lifetime. Early detection can save your life, yet many women don’t realize the importance of monthly breast self exams. Yearly exams with your physician and regular mammograms after 40 are critical components in diagnosing breast cancer, but many women – especially those who are diagnosed at the earliest stages – first discover breast issues themselves. Understanding how to perform a self exam and making this task part of your monthly routine could save your life.
Tips to make breast self exams easier
- Remember that it takes time and practice to perform a successful breast self exam. If you aren’t sure about the technique, ask your doctor for advice.
- The best time for your exam is about a week after your menstrual cycle begins because breast tissue is less swollen and tender at this point.
- During the breast self exam, utilize three different levels of pressure to reach all of your breast tissue. Light pressure allows you to inspect tissue close to the skin’s surface. Medium pressure helps you feel the deeper tissue, and firm pressure will check the tissue near your breastbone and ribs.
- For the actual exam, you can use a lengthwise strip pattern, moving your three middle fingers across your entire breast from top to bottom. You can also try the spiral pattern, where you move your fingers in concentric circles around the breast, working closer and closer in toward the nipple.
- Some women choose to perform their breast self exam in the shower. Place one arm over your head and check the breast on that side; then, move on to the opposite side. Others choose to lie down instead. Again it’s important to raise your arm over your head in order to flatten the breast tissue against your ribs to make it easier to feel the deeper tissue.
- If you find anything of concern, contact your doctor right away. Changes in tissue thickness, new lumps, puckering or dimpling of the skin, inversion of the nipple, and dramatic size changes warrant an immediate call to your
Even though breast cancer is a scary disease, you can be your own best weapon at finding it early and significantly raising your chance for survival. Families facing treatment for cancer have options to preserve their chance for having a baby in the future. Contact us to learn more about breast self exams.