October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- its goals are to raise awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research to learn more about causes, prevention, and cures. In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, find out how to do a breast self-exam and why it’s so important.
Early detection is key
It’s important to examine your breasts on a regular basis to locate any potential abnormalities -- this could be unusual lumps or bumps. Why? Because it’s estimated that 20 percent of breast cancers are identified during routine breast self-exams when a woman notices that something is off. And since women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are discouraged from getting yearly mammograms, this makes breast self-exams even more critical, given they are the only diagnostic tool that can be used to detect breast cancer.
Take control of your health by examining your breasts on a monthly basis to ensure there are no concerning symptoms.
Breast self-exams are as easy as one, two, and three…
If you’ve never done a breast self-exam before, don’t worry -- it’s easy, and only involves four steps. You should do a breast self-exam the week following your period. Why? Because that’s when breast tissue is its smoothest.
The first step is to stand in front of a full-length mirror. You should be topless with your shoulders straight and your arms down at your sides. Then view each breast in the mirror, and also look directly down at them. Examine your breasts for unusual swelling, redness, puckering, or dimpling. If you notice any of these signs, then schedule an appointment with your gynecologist.
The next step involves raising your arms over your head and then examining your breasts both in the mirror and by looking directly down at them. Again, look for any unusual swelling, redness, puckering or dimpling of the skin.
For step 3, you should gently squeeze each nipple, making sure no fluid or blood comes out. If you notice any unusual fluid or blood, schedule an appointment with your gynecologist.
The last step is checking your breasts for any unusual lumps, bulges, or bumps. Use a firm touch, and start at the nipple. Then move in larger and larger circles until you reach your cleavage and chest. You’ll also want to check under your underarms.
Once again, if you notice anything unusual, including changes in size and shape, texture, pain or tenderness, lumps and bumps, discharge, or thickening of the breast, you should schedule an appointment with your gynecologist right away.