October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and serves as a great reminder of the importance of self-examination and routine screenings. Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed type of cancer for women, and it is estimated that there will be 266,120 new cases of breast cancer in 2018. But, just like any other form of cancer, the earlier you can detect it, the higher your survival rate will be. In fact, those who detect breast cancer early have a 93% chance of survival. So while routine mammograms are important (and we encourage that you don’t miss a single screening), know that not all breast cancers can be caught by a mammogram. That’s why an at home breast screening, or self-examination is a necessary part of the early detection process for all women ages 40 or older. Here’s how to perform a self-examination as well as what to look for.
How to Conduct a Self-Examination
Be sure to perform the following self-examination at least once a month. To keep track of any changes, have a journal on hand to mark anything unusual or that you would want to discuss with your doctor.
Start the self examination in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. From there, look for any changes in breast size, shape or color.
While still standing in the mirror, raise your arms and look for the same changes. Also make a note of any discharge coming out of the nipple.
Next, lie down in a comfortable position. Then using your fingertips, start moving around your breasts, feeling for lumps or hardening knots. You will want to start at the top of the breast, including the armpit and work your way to the center, ensuring that you have examined the entire breast. Be sure to keep a medium pressure and move your fingers in a circular motion.
Lastly, examine your breasts while sitting or standing in the shower. Repeat the same process as in step three.
When to Speak with a Healthcare Professional
While routine mammograms are recommended, be on the lookout for any of the following warning signs:
- Changes in the look or feel in your breasts
- Changes in the look or feel of your nipples
- Any nipple discharge (could be watery, yellow or bloody)
Additionally, keep track of any of these signs. Though they may not immediately indicate breast cancer, it is a good health practice to look for the following and bring it up with your doctor.
- Any lumps and hard knots
- Any warmth, darkness, redness or swelling
- Dimpling or puckering on the breast’s skin
- Any itching, scaling, soreness or rashes on the nipples
- Inverted nipples
- Breast pain
Come Meet with our Health Care Specialists
If you are nearing 40 or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, then it’s imperative that you speak with a healthcare provider. Be sure to schedule all of your check-ups and mammograms based on the recommendations of your primary care physician at Community Access Network.