With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s talk about early detection. Quite possibly the best way to catch breast cancer early is performing an at home, self-breast exam.
Believe it or not, 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women performing at home breast exams!* If that’s not reason enough to check yourself, I don’t know what is!
Self-breast exams are important for everyone, even if you don’t think you’re at risk for breast cancer. It’s important to start doing them now so you become familiar with your breasts and can notice any changes in the future.
Ok, so what the heck is a self-breast exam and why should we do them?
A self-breast exam is a way to check yourself for any lumps, swelling or distortion that seems abnormal. You’ll perform it on yourself in order to detect anything that might be breast cancer as early as possible. Early detection usually means you’ve got your best chance at beating it!
How do you give yourself a breast exam?
There are a few options: in the shower, in front of a mirror, or laying down.
In the shower-
Using your fingertips, feel around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts, feeling for any lumps, thickening, or hard spots. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your doctor.
In front of a mirror-
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Then, raise your arms overhead. Look for any changes in the shape, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples.
Now, with palms on your hips, press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Your left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly. Put a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move your fingertips around your right breast gently in little circular motions around the entire breast area and armpit.
Make sure to use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple to check for discharge and/or lumps. Repeat for your left breast.
Are self-breast exams just for women? Or should men do them too?
While breast cancer is rare in men, they can still perform self-breast exams. This is especially important for men who have a family history or are at high risk. Why not? That’s how I feel about it.
How often should you do a self-breast exam?
Most adult women should do it every month. It might be necessary for some to do it more frequently if they are high risk, or if you just want to be extra careful, go for it!
What should you do if you find something?
Contact your doctor & get an appointment to be checked out. Even if you’re not sure if it’s anything. Even if you want to wait and see if it gets bigger or changes, don’t. Call your doctor now and get evaluated. This is something you don’t want to compromise, even if you’re scared. Just remember, the earlier you detect something the better your chances are to beat it.
Now that you’re freaked out, here’s some good news. 8 out of 10 lumps are NOT cancerous.* So, you can go ahead an exhale now… Just breathe through it and stay positive. Getting checked out by your doctor will ease your mind just knowing you’re in a professional’s hands, and they can give you real answers.
Even if you perform regular self-breast exams, you should still see your doctor regularly to have a professional examine you too. My belief is that you can never take too many precautions when it comes to your health. So, make sure you get examined at least once per year by your doctor and try your best to check yourself every month. It’s not always fun, but it really can save your life!
Do you do regular self exams? Let me know in the comments!
*Statistic taken from https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam
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