It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Why You Should Examine Yourself Monthly

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Why You Should Examine Yourself Monthly

Breast cancer, the second most common type of cancer in women, is often described as an abnormal growth of breast cells that appears as a lump in the breast, changes to the shape or size of the breast, or nipple discharge.

Affecting women of all ages, breast cancer is a serious health concern that requires immediate medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. While breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women during physical exams, mammograms, an ultrasound, or an MRI, breast self-exams are encouraged for early detection and successful treatment.

To ensure your health and well-being, breast self-exams should be conducted by women of all ages, especially women who are on birth control or have a family history of breast cancer.

Having a good understanding of your breasts allows for quick identification of potential problems.

What Is a BSE?

A breast self-exam, or BSE, is an informative, valuable tool that can be combined with additional exams to detect possible signs of breast cancer. Although BSE cannot prove the presence or absence of cancer, it can help you be aware of changes in your breasts so that you can report them to your doctor.

Performed regularly, BSE can additionally help women understand their breasts and familiarize themselves with how they feel normally so that they can more easily detect changes. Simply put, the importance of monthly self-breast examinations cannot be overstated.

How Do You Perform a BSE?

A breast self-exam takes little time and can be performed at your convenience. To check for any signs of breast cancer, performing a breast exam 7-10 days after your menstrual cycle is recommended. For women who are no longer menstruating, choose a day to complete the exam on a monthly basis. The goal of your BSE is to detect any changes in your breasts. Any abnormal changes in your breasts should be immediately reported to your doctor.

Visual Examination

With your shoulders upright and your hand on your hips, visually examine your breasts in the mirror. Examine the shape, size, and color of your breasts and the position of your nipples. Look for any abnormalities such as dimpling, swelling, puckering, redness, nipple inversion, scaliness, or discharge. Additionally, take note of what your breasts look like normally so that you can more easily spot changes in the future.

Remember that it’s perfectly normal for your breasts to vary in size, shape, or color. To determine what is normal for you, take note of your breasts regularly.

Once you’ve examined your breasts in the mirror, raise your arms above your head and look for any changes. Follow the guidelines listed above and document any abnormalities that you may find.

Tactile Examination

Once you have completed your visual exam, lie down and examine your entire breast with small circular motions using your fingertips. To begin, examine the skin and surface tissue by applying light pressure. Next, examine the middle tissue by applying a medium amount of pressure. Finally, examine the deep tissue using firm pressure. When you reach your deep tissue, you should feel your ribcage.

During the examination, you should look for any abnormal lumps or masses, dimpling of the skin, changes in breast size or shape, nipple discharge, or any other changes.

After completing your exam, repeat these steps while you are in an upright position. Remember, it is not unusual to have lumpy or bumpy breasts. However, it is important to note any newly formed or discovered lumps and have them examined by your doctor.

What Should You Do If You Find a Lump?

If you feel a lump or mass while undergoing a BSE, do not be alarmed. The majority of lumps and masses are non-cancerous. It is critical, however, to ensure that any lump or mass is properly diagnosed by a healthcare professional. When you visit your doctor, an additional imaging procedure, such as a breast ultrasound or MRI, may be ordered to evaluate the lump or mass further.

If your doctor provides little or no information regarding your concern, consider getting a second opinion from another medical professional.

To more effectively track any changes in your breast tissue, perform a BSE once a month and record your observations. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the appearance and anatomy of your breasts so you can more easily identify any changes.

If you have any questions or concerns about performing a BSE, schedule your annual physical or medicare annual wellness check. Breast self-examinations do not replace regular examinations conducted by your doctor.

If you are interested in scheduling a breast exam or getting a second opinion, click here to schedule your visit.

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