What We Should All Know About Breast Self-Exams

1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer, and every 13 minutes a woman dies from the disease. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this is the perfect time to become educated on the preventative measures and early detection methods regularly recommended by doctors.

Every woman is at risk for breast cancer, but some are more at risk than others due to genetics and their biological makeup. Although many women have found themselves impacted by the disease, death rates have significantly decreased due to awareness, advances in treatment options, and a variety of early detection methods. In the past 21 years alone, the death rate has drastically decreased over 39%.

When women turn 40 it is recommended that they receive annual mammograms to increase the chances of detecting any breast cancer at the earliest stage possible. Mammograms are x-rays of breasts that can detect traces of breast cancer sometimes up to 3 years earlier than it is felt. Although women over 50 are diagnosed with breast cancer more often, younger women can still be diagnosed. If a woman is at high risk due to immediate family history or being a carrier of the genetic mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2, they can sometimes be referred for annual mammograms as well.

Some doctors also recommend that women regularly conduct breast self-examinations, while other doctors don’t because they feel that it won’t help in early detection of breast cancer. This is because some women may not know what to look for, or they don’t conduct the exams frequently enough, or they just don’t know how to perform one properly.

Breast self-examinations can help women become aware of the normalities of their own breasts so they are able to detect if there is a change. 40% of breast cancer diagnoses are due to women noticing a lump in a breast or armpit. Many times, this discovery is made during daily activity such as showering or getting dressed.

As for conducting regular breast self-examinations, some women have no idea what to look for or even how to properly conduct them. When conducting them, women should:

Visibly Examine Their Breasts

Women should begin by sitting or standing in front of the mirror without a bra or shirt on with arms at their sides and facing forward. Then, with hands pressed together over their head, look for any differences. Women should be conscious of dimpling, inverted nipples, changes in shape or size, swelling, changes in coloring, soreness, fluid other than breastmilk, or a rash.

Physically Examine Their Breasts

Next, women should physically examine their breasts; first while lying down, then while standing in the shower. Women should use the opposite hand for the breast they are examining and gently use the first few finger pads. While keeping fingers flat and together, press down in small, circular motions using various levels of pressure and making sure you cover the entire breast all the way up to the collarbone and including the armpit. During this part of the self-examination, women should continue to look for any deformities within the breast tissue at various depths of the breast.

It’s important to note that not all lumps are signs of breast cancer. In fact, 8 out of 10 lumps noticed in the breast are not cancerous. Some of the abnormalities that are noticed could also just be signs of aging, menstruation, or other normal changes. This is one of the reasons why breast self-exams are controversial, as finding an abnormality can cause unnecessary anxiety or panic amongst women who find a non-cancerous lump.

Regular breast self-examinations should not be conducted as the only form of early detection. They work best if annual mammograms are still performed, as well as yearly physical examinations by a primary physician. Each of these screening methods have their limitations and flaws, but if all methods are utilized women have the best chance of catching breast cancer early.

Not only should women take advantage of the recommended screening methods for breast cancer , they should also become educated on the latest health and safety news. Staying informed could help you or a loved one.

~ Here’s to Your Health & Wellness




11/9/2018 8:00:00 AM
Darian Carrow
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Darian has a special interest in educating the public about current health & safety information. She has an expertise in teaching sexual health to teens and young adults. In her free time, she likes to read, travel, and listen to music.
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