Every annual exam, our gynecologists remind us about performing monthly breast self-exams. Since most of us aren’t at that routine, mammogram stage of life just yet, it may feel like breast health can take a temporary back seat to more “important” things such as dieting, weight loss, and exercise. We only have time for so much, right? Well, twenty somethings… We’re far from being off the hook.
By skipping breast self-exams, literally no one (except maybe your guy) is checking on your tatas more than once a year. Your guy can be helpful, sure. We’ve all heard the stories. But you, and only you, can be the expert on yourself.
Okay, okay… We’ll try to be better about that.
Sound familiar? It shouldn’t.
Monthly breast self-exams make it easy for you to learn what’s “normal” and what’s not. If you’re not checking regularly, how will you know when something is different? Relying on the doc once a year may or may not be enough. According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump.” Why take that chance?
“They say doing a formal breast self-exam can cause anxiety and stress. Why are we saying our emotions are more important than our safety? I’ll take stress and anxiety over missing a tumor any day.”
-Hildreth Stafford, Breast Cancer Survivor
It’s not embarrassing, it’s smart. The entire process itself takes about… oh, three minutes. Even the busiest of gals can spare three minutes a month, right? Check out this guide from the National Breast Cancer Foundation:
- In the Shower: Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
- In Front of a Mirror: Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
- Lying Down: When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
We hear over and over again that early detection is key. The 10 Lifesaving Breast Cancer Facts show how fortunately, breast cancer deaths have been decreasing within the last few decades due to early detection and improvements in treatment. But sadly, the other evidence is there as well. Dr. Edward C. Geehr of LifeScript explains, “the biggest risk factor for developing breast cancer is simply being a woman, though a small percentage of men develop it, too.”
While reading the facts and taking care of your own breast health, be sure to read about how diet and exercise can also make a difference.
What changes will you make this month? How about this year? Share below or @20sTweet!