Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Michigan women. A National Institutes of Health study found more than half of women breast cancer survivors detected abnormalities outside of a mammogram, through self-exams or by accident. While regular doctor visits and screenings should not be dismissed, self-exams are an important line of defense against breast cancer.
How to Self-Check
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, becoming familiar with your breasts is an important first-step in detecting abnormalities. Some additional self-exam tips include:
• Lie Down: Breast tissue more evenly spreads along the chest when lying down, which may make abnormalities more evident than when sitting or standing. Start by placing a pillow under the right shoulder, resting one arm behind the head and begin the exam one breast at a time.
• Be Thorough: When performing a self-exam, move fingers around each breast in circular motions with light, medium and firm pressure. Be sure to check the whole breast and armpit area, then move on to the center region and nipple. Repeat these steps for the left breast and perform the examination without distraction.
• Use a Mirror: In addition to feeling for irregularities, it’s important to also look for changes in the breasts during a self-exam. Face a mirror and keep an eye out for signs of discoloration, changes to the skin or visible lumps and/or swelling on and around the breast/armpit region.
• Stay Calm: With any screening, it’s important to remember everyone’s body is different. When it comes to breasts, none are typical. The look and feel can also be affected by a woman’s menstrual cycle, childbirth, weight loss or gain, certain medications and even age.
• Report Back: Sharing changes or irregularities with a primary care doctor following a self-exam is critical. Though the conversation may seem uncomfortable at first, don’t shy away from details or questions. It’s also important to schedule doctor-designated screenings, such as a mammogram, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or clinical breast exam.
What to Look For
The signs and symptoms of breast cancer can present differently in every individual. While some women may not show any symptoms, others could find any of the following in a self-exam or doctor screening:
• Changes in the size or shape of breast.
• Dimpling of breast skin.
• Lump(s) in breast (with or without an underarm lump).
• Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood.
• Pain, discomfort or inversion in the nipple.
• Redness or flaky skin on breast.
• Thickening or swelling in breast or nipple.
When to Screen
Self-exams are a great first line of defense because women are more familiar with their bodies than anyone else. However, The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends women ages 50 to 74 get a mammogram every two years at a clinic, hospital or doctor’s office. Those between the ages of 40 to 49 should consult with their primary care physician as to the best time to begin screenings, especially those with a family history of breast cancer.
Deepa is a writer and a passionate blogger. She has years of experience in writing articles, blogs and press releases after a deep research. At http://healthcaretipstoday.com she writes interesting topics on all health, beauty, fitness and healthy life. She loves exploring, researching and providing the best information to readers. In her free times, she loves to read books.
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