This was “The headline” recently in an article in Spry’s online magazine. The article went on to say:
The details: In a recent study, 57 percent of breast cancer survivors reported that their tumors had been found by a detection method other than mammography. Twenty-five percent had noticed the tumor during a breast self-exam and 18 percent by accident. Forty-three percent said their cancers had been found by a mammogram.
The take-away message: While regular mammograms are the gold standard for detecting breast cancer, “almost half of breast cancers are still found by women,” says study author Dr. Diana L. Miglioretti, of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.
Why Is Breast Self Exam So Important?
Quite simply, it could save your life. Women need to examine their breasts regularly in order to increase the probability of detecting issues early.
Breasts Naturally Undergo Many Changes
Breasts are composed of fatty tissue and fibrous tissue, milk glands and milk ducts. That is why they feel lumpy to the touch. Breast tissue can extend from the collarbone to the middle of the breastbone. At the sides of the chest, breast tissue can extend into the armpit and reach as far to the back as the side seam of a typical bra.
Few organs in the body undergo as many changes as the breast: from puberty through childbirth, breastfeeding a baby, menopause and beyond. It is not surprising that all these changes can lead to a variety of symptoms, including swelling, pain, tenderness and lumps. Breast disorders are quite common and most are benign.
Perform a Breast Self-exams (BSE) Every Month
By performing monthly breast self-exams (BSE), you will become accustomed to the normal look and feel of your breasts and gain confidence in your ability to detect a change.
Although breast cancer is relatively rare in women under 40 years old, it is easier to establish a routine for examining yourself when you develop breast tissue. At this age you are establishing many healthy habits, such as brushing and flossing your teeth regularly. Adding a monthly breast self-exam when you are young will make the routine a part of your normal healthy lifestyle.
Do a breast self-exam four to five days after your period starts. That is the time when your breasts are least affected by hormones in your body. Checking yourself at this same time each month will minimize your mistaking hormonal influences that occur for an abnormality. If you have gone through menopause, do a breast self-exam on the same day each month. Keeping a diary is an excellent way to keep notes from month to month. An alternative is to use a calendar to keep track of menses and breast self-exams.
Ask your personal health care provider to recommend and instruct you on the techniques they recommend.
When to Call your Doctor
After a BSE, contact your healthcare provider right away if you notice any of these breast changes:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling-in of the nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that does not go away
Even if you have had a mammogram, see your doctor if you notice anything suspicious. A tumor can be missed or start to grow after you have received the all-clear from a radiologist.
Good Reasons to Practice Breast Self-exams (BSE)
BSE is a great tool in the fight for Breast Cancer Prevention.
- BSE is free
- BSE requires no special equipment
- BSE has no age limitations
- BSE can be done frequently–monthly, not once every 1 or 2 years
- Breast self-awareness is an important part of a healthy lifestyle
- You know your body best
More Information and Sources
We encourage you to check out the following websites:
Georgia Health Sciences Health System’s Breast Self Exam
American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer’s Breast awareness and self-exam
Spry Living’s News You Can Use