Self-Checking for Breast Cancer

For 40 percent of women with breast cancer, conducting a breast self-exam was the detector of their lump or abnormality. At least once a month, adult women of all ages can be proactive about their breast health with self-detection. Women are encouraged to bring forward any concerns of lumps or abnormalities to their providers and schedule a mammogram to catch potential cancer in it’s tracks.

How can I perform a breast self-exam?

Check both breasts monthly for any breast changes by using the top flat parts of your three middle fingers, pressing down with different pressures on each part of each breast. Beyond lumps, be vigilant for any other changes including knots, dimpling, thickening, swelling, and changes of the nipples. For an extra look, stand in front of a mirror and raise your arms to make a visual inspection.

How do I remember to regularly perform my breast self-exams?

A key method to remembering to conduct your self-checks is to add it as routine to foundational activities of daily living. Whether it’s during a shower, getting dressed for work in front of a mirror, or after lying down in bed, performing a self-check can become a muscle memory over time. While women are encouraged to perform their breast self-exams once a month, they can implement a schedule, like the first Sunday of every month or even once a week if they are comfortable doing so. Women should be careful not to perform too many self-exams within a month if they are anxiety-inducing. Don’t panic – 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous, and most of the time, once a month is a productive routine for breast self-exams.

Can I rely on breast self-exams alone to be certain I am free of breast cancer?

Women are encouraged to get their annual mammography beginning at age 40 as screening is the key to detecting certain breast cancers early. Breast cancer can sometimes occur in women under 40, so adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform their monthly breast self-exams and bring forward any concerns to their provider. The combination of regular medical care with a good relationship with a provider and an appropriate mammography referral can be life-saving.

The idea of performing regular breast self-checks is to get used to the feel of the breasts so a woman can become more receptive of changes. If a woman has any worries or concerns, she can schedule an appointment with her provider to gain more insight and peace of mind. Call 712-754-5304 for more information.