October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it is the perfect time to reflect back on how far we have come and look ahead to how far we still have to go. Advances in treatment have improved the cure rates for breast cancer, but the disease remains one of the biggest killers of women.
The good news is that breast cancer is eminently treatable if it is caught in its earliest stages, before it has had a chance to spread. Further good news is that early detection is easier than ever before, thanks to advances in mammography and better screening technology.
The Importance of Self-Exam
Regular mammograms are an important first line of defense against breast cancer, but there is another, and far simpler, way for women to keep tabs on their breast health. By conducting regular breast exams, women of all ages can find tiny lumps early, when they are far easier to treat.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to do your first self breast exam. If you have never done such an exam before, you may think that the process is difficult, but once you know how to do it, it is actually quite simple. Here is what you need to know about doing your first self breast exam.
How to Conduct a Self Breast Exam
There are five steps to conducting a self breast exam, and it is important to do each step in order. The five steps of the self breast exam are:
- Start by looking at your breasts in the mirror. Keep your shoulders straight and place your arms at your hip. Look for any distortions or swelling, and for any unevenness in size or shape. If you notice any dimpling or puckering of the skin, any bulging or a nipple that is inverted, you should talk to your doctor. You should also talk to your doctor if you notice any redness, rash, soreness or swelling.
- Next, raise your arms above your head and look for the same issues. If you notice any redness, rashes, swelling or soreness, you should talk to your doctor right away.
- The third step in the self breast exam is also visual. Examine your breasts for any discharge, including fluid that appears milky, yellow or watery. If you notice any discharge, you need to call your doctor and make an appointment.
- The fourth step in the self breast exam is tactile. Lie down in a comfortable position and carefully feel your breasts. Use your right hand to examine your left breast and check your right breast with your left hand. Keep your fingers flat and close together, and examine the tissue in a circular motion. The amount of tissue examined with each pass should be roughly the size of a quarter.
- The final step in your monthly self breast exam involves feeling your breasts while sitting or standing. You may want to do this step in the shower, since it is often easier to examine the skin when it is wet. You should go over every part of each breast, from your collarbone to your abdomen. If you feel any lumps or irregularities, you need to follow up with your doctor right away.
The self breast exam is one of your most important tools in the fight against breast cancer. This type of self exam can help you spot problems early, detecting even tiny imperfections and tumors when they are easier to treat. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it is the perfect time to start your monthly self breast exam regimen.