October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so this is the perfect time to talk about self-breast exams. Self-breast exams are important and have saved many lives. If you don’t know a lot about them, it’s okay. This article can give you some guidance on how to perform them.
1. Do Them Monthly
First of all, self-breast exams should be done monthly. Doing them monthly lets you get used to what your breasts normally feel like. It is easier to notice a change in them this way. It is also good to do them around the same time every month as there can be changes throughout the month in how they feel. Some women experience breast tenderness before they start their periods so it is usually recommended to do them after your period starts.
2. Look in a Mirror First
When you start your self-breast exam, you want to first look in the mirror. Be alert for any changes. This might include a rash, skin color changes, puckering or other changes. Look at your breasts with your arms at your sides and then above your head. Look at them from the side view, as well.
3. Examine Them in the Shower then Lying down
It is recommended that you examine your breasts in the shower and then lying down. This gives you 2 different opportunities to find anything suspicious. You will also get a different feel depending on if you are in the shower or lying down. When you are in the shower, your hand will be more likely to glide across your skin. When you are lying down, it is a slower type of examining. Both are important.
4. Start on the outside
When you do your self-breast exam, you want to start on the outside and work your way inward. Take the tips of your fingers and rub in a gentle circle. Most women find that their 3 middle fingers work best for this. Move across each breast, moving inward as you go. If you notice any lumps, be sure to pay close attention to them.
5. Note Anything Different
When you are doing your self-breast exam, you need to be alert for anything different. If you feel any hard areas or lumps, you need to note that. If it seems very minor, you may decide to write it down and keep an eye on it for a week or so before you call your doctors. The feel of your breasts can change throughout the month in combination with your menstrual cycle. Write down exactly what you feel and in exactly what area of your breast it was in so you will remember later.
6. Don’t Panic if You Feel a Lump
If you do feel a lump, do not panic. Most lumps do turn out to be nothing. In fact, according to breastcancer.org website, 80% will turn out to be nothing. It could be a cyst or just how your breasts naturally are. Of course you want to let your doctor know and take over your care at that point, especially if the lump doesn’t go away after a week or so.
7. It Doesn’t Substitute for a Professional Exam
Doing self-breast exams is great and an important step in breast cancer awareness and early treatment. But they do not substitute for a professional exam. Make sure that you see your doctor for a yearly breast exam. At some point, your doctor will most likely want to do mammograms as well. Although it can make you a bit nervous to have these things done, it is important.
I hope this has offered you some good information and guidance. Do you do self-breast exams? They can absolutely save lives!