These days, people are more aware of cancer and the steps that they can take in order to protect their health. The American Cancer Association as well as gynaecologists recommend that women do breast exams on a monthly basis starting when they are 20 and for the remainder of their life.
The reason that doctors suggest women do these exams is that as they become familiar with their breasts they will get to know what is normal and will be able to tell if there are any changes. These changes, such as lumps and masses, are easily detected when women are doing self breast exams on a regular basis. Detecting the changes in the breast is important as they could be a sign of cancer. These changes do not mean that a person has cancer, but they should be checked into to make sure that they are nothing to be concerned about.
It is best that perform your self breast exam around the same time each month. Some women choose to do this a week after their period as the breasts are not swollen or tender at this time. For those who may not have a period, they may prefer to do their exam on the first of each month so that they remember each month to do it.
How to do your self breast exam and what to look for:
- Standing before the mirror with nothing on and arms at your side. Look to check if there are any changes that you can see. Then, put your hands upon your hips and look again for any changes that may have occurred. Next, raise your arms and then flex the muscles while looking for changes.
- Check how your breasts look paying attention for any changes in their contour, swelling, as well as dimpling of the nipple or the skin. Most women do not have breasts that match so will notice that there are differences between the two. After a bit, you will get to know what is normal and what is not for you and your breasts.
- Using the pads of your fingertips check your breast and armpit for any lumps. You can use different motions such as a circular motion, a wedge pattern or go up and down to check the breast. Whatever method you decide to use, make sure you use this method each month when doing your self breast exam.
- Lie down and start by checking the right breast. Place a pillow under the right shoulder and put your right hand underneath your head. Repeat the finger motions that you already did checking for any differences. Repeat this procedure on the left breast.
- Gently, squeeze each nipple and look for any discharge. If this occurs, you will want to talk to your doctor.
It is important to visit your doctor each year for them to do a breast exam and to go for a mammogram when they recommend that you should. Even if you do find a lump, or the doctor finds one, it is likely benign and will end up being malignant.