In the past decade, some breast self-exam (BSEs) studies have suggested that regular BSEs do not improve breast cancer mortality rates. As a result, some organizations have stopped recommending that women perform monthly self-exams. However, many doctors (including myself) still recommend regular BSEs. Many women discover cancerous lumps during a self-exam, not just during mammograms. Familiarity with your breasts remains an excellent form of early detection.
How to perform a breast self-exam (BSE)
Your BSE involves both a visual and physical inspection. Some women underestimate the area of their chest that is breast tissue. A breast self-exam should cover the area from your collarbone to where your breast meets your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
Step 1: Visual Exam
Visually inspect yourself with your arms down at your sides, and then again with your arms raised over your head. If necessary, lift each breast to examine the bottom area where your breast and ribs meet.
Step 2: Physical Exam
You can examine your breasts while standing or laying, whichever is comfortable and allows you to perform a thorough examination.
Use the pads of your first three fingers and make small circles, about the size of a quarter, across your breast. Slowly work your way from the top of your armpit and down, from collarbone to cleavage. Try not to lift your fingers, but rather to slide them up and down, then over to the next section.
Move your fingers in a pattern to be sure that you don’t miss any areas. You can move in horizontal or vertical lines, or you can start at the nipple and work in circles outward. Use any method that works for you and which you can easily track.
Use varying pressure in each spot to feel the surface, middle, and deep tissue in your breast. It should take several minutes to examine both breasts thoroughly, so take your time.
How can you remember your monthly breast self-exam?
If you’re still menstruating, the week after your period ends is an ideal time to perform your exam. If your breasts are swollen and tender, the exam will be unnecessarily uncomfortable.
Try to pick a specific date of the month or a time that lines up with your menstrual cycle. You can keep track of the date by setting a reminder on your cell phone, jotting it on the wall calendar in colored pen, or lining it up with another significant monthly date, like when you make your mortgage payment.
Creating a routine makes it easier for you to remember.
Remember, breast lumps aren’t always cancer!
If you discover a lump, try not to panic. Many lumps are not cancerous. Benign breast disease can cause lumps that may present no risk for cancer now or in the future. The only way to know the cause is to visit your doctor.
If you’re worried about something you’ve discovered in your breast, get in touch Dr. Princess Thomas at Breast Care Specialists of Carolina today by visiting www.bcscarolina.com or calling 704-769-3800.
Dr. Princess Thomas is a well-respected and dedicated breast surgeon that is in private practice at Breast Care Specialists of Carolina in Mooresville, NC where she is the founding physician. She offers an individualized and holistic approach to breast care. Dr. Thomas completed a general surgery residency at Mercer University and completed breast fellowship at Yale University. Dr. Thomas implements the latest techniques of oncoplastic surgery to ensure that her patients have the best cosmetic outcome. She is the proud wife of Dr. Rossi Williams and mother of three children: Rossi, Peyton and Royce.
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