Monthly Breast Self-Exams!

Mammograms are usually done on a yearly basis once a woman turns forty. But, that doesn’t mean that breast cancer can’t show up before then. That is one reason why breast self-examination is so important to your life.

A breast self-exam is usually done on a monthly basis to detect any changes in your breasts and under the arms from the month before. It can start as soon as a girl hits puberty and her breasts begin to grow.

Previously, the self-exam was always performed while standing up. Usually women would do it in the shower with arms raised. Now, the consensus is that a better way of detecting changes is to perform the self-examination while lying down. The breast tissue is flattened, much like when having a mammogram and lumps are easier to palpate.

Here is how to do it. First, lie flat on your bed or other surface. Starting on the right side, place your right arm above your head. Using the tips of your first three fingers, on your left hand, make small circular movements with the fingers.

Beginning at the armpit, move up and down the breast, across the nipple until you reach the midline of your chest. This way, you don’t miss any areas of the breast as you move across the body. The pattern is repeated on the left side with the first three fingers after the thumb on your right hand.

When you are done, go back and examine your underarms. The best position for examining the armpits is sitting or standing up. Breast tissue can extend under the armpits so lumps can occur in that tissue as well. Raise the arms only shoulder level so you can feel the entire area well without pulling the skin too tightly for deep palpitation.

Since breast tissue is dense, especially in younger women, they recommend three types of pressure. Light pressure will detect anything right below the surface of the skin. Medium pressure is for the middle layer of tissue and firmer pressure will detect changes in the deepest breast tissue closest to the pectoral muscle.

Why are breast self-exams so important? Even before you are old enough to be recommended for a mammogram, you can detect changes in your breast. Catching a potential cancer when it is a lump the size of a seed is better than waiting until it has grown larger and infiltrated other tissues. Your breasts are a part of your body so you are the best judge or any outward changes as well. You can alert your doctor and have a proper mammogram performed.

Breast self-exam is the first line of defense for detecting cancers of the breast. It is performed once a month starting when a woman is in her teens. Early detection can also mean a better chance of survival.

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