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2018 was another year full of new accomplishments and memories with those we hold dear. However, we know that for many of you the start of a new year brings the opportunity to continue to improve, whether that be budgeting, eating a little healthier, or strengthening relationships. Consider including your relationship with your breasts on your list of good habits for 2019!
You may have heard some of the recent debate over the value of self-breast exams. On their own, breast exams have not been shown to improve survival of women who have breast cancer. However, forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump. It is important for you to be familiarize yourself with your breasts in order to recognize what is normal and then consult with a physician when you notice changes.
1. Check out the girls in the mirror
Strike a pose with your hands on your hips and look to see if your breasts are their usual shape color and size.
Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following:
2. Raise your arms overhead with your palms pressed together and look for the same changes as those listed above. Also, check for any fluid coming from one or both nipples.
Hint: If you didn’t have a baby recently, fluid should NOT be coming out of your nipples.
3. Examine your breasts with your hands.
You can do this either lying down or in the shower. The breast tissue spreads out and becomes thinner when we lay on our backs, which may make this position easier for some women. Other women find it helpful to examine when their skin is slippery and wet in the shower. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works the best for you.
We realize that breast self-exams can be intimidating for many women, especially if they are unsure what they are feeling for. Different areas of your breast have different textures.
Try to perform a breast self-exam once a month. Taking ten minutes out of every thirty days to prioritize your health is not that big of a time commitment, ladies. It takes longer to get a manicure. And think about it, you could admire your freshly painted nails while doing your breast exam. Need I say self-care? According to the Mayo Clinic, the best time to perform a breast self-exam is during the week following your period because your breasts are typically less tender, making significant fibrocystic changes less likely.
Overall, there is no risk associated with performing a breast self-exam. Some women may experience increased levels of anxiety if they detect a new lump. If this occurs for you, take a deep breath and consult with your physician who can provide guidance and recommendations. They may recommend further tests and procedures if needed. Some women may feel a performed breast ultrasound or biopsy was unnecessary if the results demonstrate the lump was benign.
Finally, don’t overestimate the benefit of breast self-exams. They are an excellent free tool to supplement, but not to replace clinical breast exams or screening mammograms.