Unfortunately, there’s no method of breast examination that’s completely effective at identifying early stage breast cancer. But, performing self-exams can help you notice changes that may indicate you have breast cancer.
Since self-examinations are short, easy to perform, and cost-effective, you should include them as part of your breast cancer screening regimen, particularly if you have elevated risk factors. In this blog, the health experts at Candela and Schreier Medical Corporation have provided some tips to guide your efforts.
Be familiar with your body
Because it costs nothing to perform a breast self-exam, a woman can start these as soon as she develops breasts. After all, it’s easier to recognize changes when you’re familiar with your breasts in their natural state.
Mammograms aren’t recommended until you reach age 40, unless you have a family history of breast cancer or other factors that may increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Therefore, breast exams with your doctor and on your own are your primary screening tools prior to then.
Understand the limits of self-exams
Finding a lump or other change to your breasts during a self-exam is a long way from a cancer diagnosis. Lumps and bumps can form in breast tissue for reasons other than cancer. Similarly, early stages of breast cancer may be observable during a mammogram or MRI procedure that can’t be felt during a self-exam.
Therefore, combining self-exams with other detection methods can create a much better chance of detecting tumors as soon as possible.
Follow the 5-step approach
Since you’re looking for changes and inconsistencies in your breast tissue, performing self-exams in a consistent way can increase your chances of recognizing an abnormality. Self-exams typically follow a 5-step pattern.
1. Check your breasts in a mirror with your arms at your sides
Inspect your breasts for bulges, dimples, or puckering that wasn’t there previously, as well as changes to your nipples
2. Raise your arms over your head
Look for the same changes in the first step, particularly in areas hidden by the first pose.
3. Inspect your nipples
Check for fluid discharge from either nipple, whether milky, bloody, yellow or clear.
4. Lie down and use your hands to feel your breast tissue
Feel both breasts with your opposite hands. Use a consistent pattern that covers all areas.
5. Stand up and repeat the inspection
Many women find this easier in the shower or bath when their skin is wet.
The most important aspect of breast self-exams is body awareness. Learning to observe your body is an important way to notice changes and maintain your overall health.
When you do need to investigate breast issues more fully, the oncology specialists at Candela and Schreier Medical Corporation can perform a thorough evaluation and provide expert treatment. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone today.