We all know this but do we ever do this? No! But that needs to stop. Breast self-exams are far more important than you may think. They're crucial in early diagnosis of breast cancer. But don't freak out just yet. Any lumps you find aren't necessarily cancerous, sometimes it might just be a benign lump hanging out in your breast! Either way, here are a few tips when you do a breast self-exam.
Once a month! It is important that you do a little check for yourself once a month. Johns Hopkins Medical Center states that, “forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” If you give yourself an exam once a month, you have a higher chance of finding something early on so you can get it checked out right away.
Okay, got it. So, once a month. But how do you even do a breast self-exams? Do they hurt? What should you be looking for? Well, it’s actually more simple than you think. There are 3 ways to check for any abnormalities in your breasts.
1) In the shower
The shower is one of the best places you can do a breast exam. Using your fingers you’ll want to press all around your breast in a circular motion starting out and working your way in. While doing this you'll want to raise the arm of the breast you're examining so that you are able to more easily feel for anything. When you do this in the shower make sure you are looking for anything that feels/seems abnormal to you (hardened knot, lumps, or thickening).
2) In front of a mirror
A big part of your breast self-exam is looking at your breasts in the mirror. Just because there might not be any lumps or anything in your breast tissue, there could still be some problems on the surface. When you do the check in the mirror, you have to have your arms at your side at first and then you want to raise your arms above your head. Look to see if there are any changes in the contour. You’re also going to look for things like any dimples in the skin or even changes in your nipples.
3) Laying down
So you have to lay down for the next part of the exam but don’t worry, it’s almost over. The reason you have to lay down is because when you lay down the breast tissue can spread out evenly, which will help when you are trying to identify any lumps. Put a pillow under whichever breast you would like to examine first. Using your opposite hand, move your fingers around the breast in a circular motion, making sure you cover the entire breast AND armpit area. Then repeat this on the other side.
Okay, so you felt a lump? Maybe saw some dimpling in the skin that you’re worried about. Don’t freak out just yet. The next step for you would be to book a doctor’s appointment for a mammogram. A mammogram is a test they perform on your breasts where they take an x-ray of them so they can find out what is going on beneath all that tissue. Overall, breast self-exams could save your life. So remember, once a month. In the shower. In the mirror. And laying down.