Self Breast Exams are Optional

self-bA breast exam done by a medical provider is helpful and extremely important but in some cases it can be done too infrequently.

A self breast exam is important and should be considered as such – but it considered optional.

Monthly breast exams that become routine can give you better awareness, comfort, and information regarding the condition of your breast.

There are 2 main techniques for self breast exams that will be discussed below.  The key isn’t which type you choose but rather the consistency in which they are done.

Changes to your Breast can occur due to stress, timing of menstrual cycle, Pregnancy, Infection, lactating and more.

The essentials of a breast exam appears to change every few years. Some believe the awareness of your breast is the most essential while others hope that early detection can be initiated by the women herself.

Breast exams can still be done while pregnant or with breast implants.

 

What are you looking for?

This is often the main concern or biggest question asked.

A lump is only the partially correct answer. Many women have lumps in their breasts that aren’t alarming.  But other things such as dimpling, redness, skin texture changes, drainage, and more are also evaluated.

 

What to do

A breast exam is done by visualization of breast as well as feeling of the breast tissue. Initially no specific tissue differences will be felt. But over time a difference will be noted

Typically done in front of mirror or in shower. Inspect breasts with hands over head.

 

2 main techniques:

 

1.) Up and down technique

–  Use opposite arm of breast being examined
–  Use 3 fingers
–  Use pads of fingers
–  Use pressure during examination
–  Examine armpits, breast tissue, and nipples
–  Start high then go straight down in a line
–  When to below breast – repeat again
–  Same arm as breast being examined should be placed behind head
–  Overlapping is common

manual

 

2.) Circular technique

–  Use opposite arm of breast being examined
–  Use 3 fingers
–  Use pads of fingers
–  Use pressure during examination
–  Examine armpits, breast tissue, and nipples
–  Move fingers clockwise in each region of breast
–  Start a very small circle
–  Expand circle outwards
–  Move to next region, underarm
–  Overlapping is common
–  Same arm as breast being examined should be placed behind head

 

Divide each breast into 4 regions.

.   Inner upper
.   Inner lower
.   Outer upper
.   Outer lower

Consistency is the key – try to always start with the same breast and in the same direction

Start breast exams both prior and after your period ends. Many women have swelling and pain prior to starting their period.

 

When an Abnormal Area is Felt

First is don’t panic – only a very small number of “abnormal” areas are actually cancer.

Most are areas are non-cancerous, Breast Fibroadenoma, and/or Fibrocystic Changes.

However, you should inform your medical provider and further test may be necessary

 

Potential Findings

–  Hard lump
–  Can be near underarm, on breast, or near nipple
–  Abnormal changes
–  Changes in color, texture
–  Changes in size or shape
–  Dimples
–  Inversion of nipple
–  Redness, warmth, or pain
–  Swelling
–  Nipple discharge [abnormal discharge]
–  Rashes, itching
–  Unexplainable sores

 

Risks of self breast exam

Alone, self breast exams show no risk

Cancer is rare and therefore you may be subjecting yourself to tests that won’t find anything alarming.

Despite a self breast exam, cancer may still be missed

Our society has become much more aware of Breast Cancer.

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Mammograms, MRIs, self breast exams, and medical provider visits.

Awareness does help in the fight against cancer, but it may also increase fear and concern.

 

Overall

Despite decision regarding type of technique, timing of exam, or frequency – the key is knowing yourself.

A self breast exam may help – but it is currently it is considered optional.

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