A breast self-exam is something that should be performed just as regularly as brushing your teeth (except not every day, of course). This type of exam requires no tools or instruments. It can be done in the privacy of your own home. If you do not get to the gynecologist or doctor as you should, take the responsibility into your “own hands” at your leisure.
Normally, breasts should be checked regularly by a gynecologist every visit (1-2 years), beginning at the age of 20. You should perform breast self exam on a regular basis once a month at the same time. If you are required to have a mammogram, follow your doctor’s advice.
Breast self-exams are more effective if performed after your menstrual cycle (breasts are less sensitive at this time). There are a few things to look for and feel for. First, check out the overall look of your breasts and see if there are any irregular changes in them.
This may be done in front of a mirror. Is one breast sagging or has anything in particular grown on or around them? Do you have discharge from the nipple? If you have any of these changes, inform your doctor or gynecologist immediately.
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to perform breast self-exam is in the shower because it is easier to detect lumps under wet skin. Another way is to be lying flat down with one arm up at a time. If you prefer, you may do it standing, but this method is probably not the most accurate or effective.
To perform self-breast self-exam, first, take the pads of your hands and fingers and glide them over (not push) the skin all the way from the collar bone to underneath the armpit to your breast and breast bone areas.
It is easy to miss a lump if you are using an “up and down” technique, which will “miss” lumps. However, if you are trying to examine the inside of the “deeper tissues” of the breast, this is acceptable. Remember, to use the glide technique and light pressure upon examination. The shower method makes it the easiest way to do this.
If you detect a lump, call your doctor and get an appointment as soon as possible. The lump can be either benign or malignant, but there’s no way to tell without a biopsy. This can be done by your gynecologist or surgeon.
Women age 40 and over should have regular mammography lined up (1-2 years) and should be constantly on top of their breast health. For women who have a history of breast cancer in their family, the concern should be deeper and more serious. Women who are age 35-54 are at the greatest risk for breast cancer, as breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women of this age group.
It has been recommend by many health professionals that exercise may reduce the chances of developing breast cancer. Smokers should also reconsider their habit in light of this disease, as well. It is wise to eat a low fat, low calorie diet, which is high in fiber, to stave off the disease.