Did you know that approximately 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime? Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women after skin cancer. To detect breast cancer at the earliest stages, women are encouraged to begin receive their first mammogram screening by the age of 40, and should continue to receive one annually. However, mammograms are not the only way to ensure the health of your breast tissue. Another precautionary measure women should and can take right at the comfort of their home is a breast self-examination. A self-exam is extremely simple, and should be done monthly by performing these techniques:
• Inspect your breasts in front of a mirror. A mirror should be used to check your breasts for any visual changes such as swelling, dents, odd coloring, or lumps. The best positions for inspecting your breasts are leaning forward, arms on hips tightly, or standing upright with both arms over your head. When checking the breasts, keep in mind that your left and right breast will not exactly match, so it is best to look for any noticeable changes particularly on one side.
• Feel your breasts for any lumps or knots. There are two ways to do this part of the exam and it is best to use a different technique each month. One method is done in the shower, using water on the skin to help fingers glide over the skin more easily. The other method is performed lying down so that your breast tissue spreads out evenly along your chest.
- While taking a shower, use the pads of your fingers and move around your entire breast in a circular motion moving from the outside to the center, checking the armpit area as well for any lumps or knots.
- While lying down, place a pillow under your right shoulder and rest your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions. Then, repeat the same method alternating to your right hand to check your left breast.
When performing your self-exam, remember to check your nipple as well. There is less breast tissue under your nipple, so if you find a lump, you should check with your healthcare provider. If all is normal, continue to check your breasts on a monthly basis. If you detect any discharge, swelling, lumps, unusual coloring, or anything unusual, you should contact your doctor promptly.
Of course, self-examinations are a simple, important way to protect your breasts, but you cannot rely solely on them. A mammogram can detect breast tumors before they can be felt, so continuing to receive annual screenings is key for early detection.
At Maryville Imaging, we offer Digital Mammography Services performed by expert technicians in a comfortable, friendly environment. We encourage all women 40 years and older to schedule regular mammogram screenings—it just might save your life. Call us today at 618-288-4929 to schedule your mammogram!