How, When, And Why You Should Be Doing A Self Breast Exam This Month — And Every Month
After finding my third breast lump in ten years, I was sure I had a benign mass again. When I received the news that my breast lump looked normal, I was thrilled. However, a few days later, I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. I got a second opinion, had a biopsy, and then got the four words no woman would ever want to hear: You have breast cancer.
I found each of my breast lumps through a self-breast exam. Of course I didn't know that by feeling a lump under my skin whether I was clear or not. But doing the exam and finding a lump meant I could bring it to my gynecologist's attention. She helped me take the next and necessary steps to find out what I was dealing with. In my experience, the key to the early detection of breast cancer is a monthly breast self-exam, as well as an annual visit to the doctor and taking mammograms, starting as early as recommended.
I've shared my story with millions of readers over the past three years and I've received messages asking me questions about self-breast tests. I am not a doctor, a nurse, or a doctor. However, women want to know when, how, and why to get monthly self-breast exams. Unfortunately, they don't always get this information from their doctors. You can find the answers to your burning questions from experts.
Who should do self-breast exams?
Some women have told me they don't need to do a self-exam because they don't have a family history of breast cancer. Well, neither have I and only 5-10% of those diagnosed with breast cancer are at risk. Yes, you read that right. This means that the vast majority of breast cancer cases seem out of the blue. In addition, approximately 11% of breast cancer cases occur in women under the age of 45. Since mammograms are generally only recommended for women from the age of 40, there are many years in which a younger woman's cancer can go undetected. Men make up about 1% of breast cancer cases.
Who is at risk of developing breast cancer?
Breast cancer can occur in men or women, although the vast majority are women over fifty. The CDC states that the risk factors for breast cancer include age, genetic mutations, reproductive history, personal history, family history, breast density, drug history, and breast health history. In addition, a woman's physical activity, weight, hormonal history, alcohol consumption, and reproductive history are risk factors. Smoking, exposure to toxins, and hormonal changes due to evening shifts can also increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
When should you do your self breast exam?
The Mayo Clinic recommends not checking the breasts when they are most tender. The goal is not to feel uncomfortable, but to be in a place where you can be thorough instead of working to avoid tenderness. Due to hormone fluctuations, changes in breast tissue can occur throughout the cycle. They recommend waiting for your period to finish. Then the swelling of your breast tissue starts to decrease. Generally, the best time to take the exam is the week after your period ends. Whenever you choose to take your exam, Johns Hopkins tells you to take it at the same time of the month every month.
How do I do a self breast exam?
I don't know about you, but I was never taught how to do a self-breast exam. I think I received a flyer at an appointment many years ago. I found my first lump by accident while washing my body with a loofah in the shower. After my first one, I decided to learn how to do breast exams myself and make them a monthly routine. Thankfully, the magic of the internet is here to save the day and teach us how to get an exam right. I encourage you to watch a video and then put it into practice. Essentially, you have to look and feel. Examine your breasts in the mirror head-on and with your arms raised for dimples, discharge, or discoloration. You will also need to take a touch test, both standing and lying down. This should be done once a month, every month, preferably like earlier, a week after your period.
Why it is important to do self-breast exams
Self-exams are important in getting to know your own body, which is your baseline. This will help you in the future. If you notice something, you'll know early instead of waiting until you're considered old enough to have a mammogram. In addition, not all doctors perform clinical breast exams on patients. Despite all the recommendations, not every woman does an annual exam, during which the doctor may or may not conduct a clinical breast exam. The old cliché is true. Early detection saves lives. If cancer is left untreated for months or even years, it can have devastating consequences. By doing your self-exam, seeing your doctor annually, and taking mammograms from the age of forty, equip yourself with as much protection as possible. Breast self-exams shouldn't be your only screening tool, but they can certainly be an important part of your breast awareness.
What to do next if you see or feel anything suspicious
If you feel or see changes in your breasts, call your gynecologist to make an appointment. They can help you determine the next best steps. Sometimes this is just a clinical examination. In other cases, you may be sent for an ultrasound, a mammogram, or both. If more imaging is needed, a breast MRI may be okay and a biopsy can be ordered. The results will help your doctor know what your plan of action should be.
There are different types of breast cancer and many risk factors that can feel uncontrollable to a woman. I fully understand fear and avoidance. Doing a self-breast exam is an opportunity to discover something suspicious. However, there is one thing we can control: when we choose to prioritize our breast health and decide that we are important enough to take a few minutes a month to check out our own breasts.
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Heyyyyyy, you. It's October (yay!) And a great month to remember, please, please, please do your monthly self-breast exam. If you feel or see something funky, give your document a call ASAP. Much love, a three year old "too young" breast cancer survivor? . #breastcancerawareness #breastcancer #breastcancersurvivor #wearpink #october # october2020 #breastcancerwarrior #breastcancerawarenessmonth #pink #selfbreastexam #checkyourself #boobs #boobsofinstagram #breastreconstruction #thursdayvts
A post shared by Rachel Garlinghouse (@whitesugarbrownsugar) on Oct 1, 2020 at 6:17 am PDT
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