6 of 31
It’s that time of year again. Everywhere you look women (and now men) are wearing pink!
Even the athletes, referees, and coaches in the NFL (National Football League) can be spotted sporing pink socks, gloves, and even shoes.
This color has become synonymous with Breast Cancer Awareness month which happens every October.
Though heart disease is the number one killer of women in America (exceeding the next 7 causes of death combined), breast cancer is not to be taken lightly as 232,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year.
A few years ago, I had a scare after having a routine breast exam at my physician’s office. This scare led to my first mammogram at 36, and a couple of ultrasounds to boot.
Thankfully, it was determined that there was nothing to worry about, but being a worrier, I’m not sure that is possible.
Through this experience I’ve learned the importance of self-breast exams. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women like you and I who find a lump themselves at home. This is why regular self-breast exams are imperative.
Mammograms can detect cancer before you are able to feel a lump, but it’s important to know what your breasts feel and look like, so you notice changes between scheduled mammograms.
Women should have a mammogram annually starting at age 40 (and before if breast cancer runs in your family). Talk with your doctor about what is best for you, as some doctors recommend every other year.
How to do a Self-Breast Exam
1. Shower Check: While in the shower use the pads of your fingers to move in a circular pattern from the inside of your breast all the way to your armpit. You will be feeling for anything abnormal, like lumps, hardening, or thickening. Checking at the same time each month (like after your period) is a great idea because your breast changes during different times of the month. If you find something abnormal contact your doctor.
2. Mirror Check: Take a peek while in front of a mirror with arms down, then with arms raised, and again with your hands placed on your hips. Look for swelling, dimpling of the skin, puckering, changes in color, changes in your nipple (inverted or changed positions), bulging of skin, and any distortion. *Your breasts will not look exactly alike, most women’s are different. You will be looking for changes on one particular side at a time.
3. Lie Down Check: Lie down on a bed placing a pillow under your left shoulder, and placing your left hand behind your head. When you are in this position your breast tissues have a chance to spread apart evenly. With your right hand, using the pads of your fingers (keep fingers flat and pressed together) use a light, medium, and firm pressure moving in a circular pattern (about the size of a quarter) around your entire breast to your armpit. You will go over your breast top to bottom, side to side, from your neck to your tummy, and armpit to your cleavage. Following this pattern will assure you don’t miss a spot.
Again, you will feel for lumps and abnormalities. Gently squeeze nipple checking for discharge (watery, milky, or blood) and lumps.
Repeat on right side. If you notice any changes or anything abnormal contact your health provider right away so they can give you a thorough checkup.
1. Know your history. Speak with both sided of your family about breast cancer running in your family.
2. Check Yourself. Know what’s normal for you and what is not. (Your husband may want to get in on the breast check exam for you too.). Set an alarm monthly or mark it on your calendar to remind you to self-check.
3. Get Examined By A Professional. Starting at 20, get checked at least every 3 years. Schedule a mammogram every year starting at age 40.
4. Make Healthy Choices. Those who are overweight, eat fatty diets, and don’t exercise much are at higher risk for getting breast cancer. Limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking are some ways to reduce your risk. Finally, those who breastfeed have a greater chance of preventing breast cancer.
I hope these tips help you, and encourage you to take your health into your own hands (pun intended). Remember self-checks are important, and routine visits to your doctor are as well.
Be well and check your “girls” out monthly-