We are now at the end of Breast Awareness Month and would like to share some quick tips on how you can perform the most important mode of detection: the self breast exam! The best part? It’s free! We do encourage you to get your mammograms done as per standard testing guidelines for your age group.
But first, the facts! Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and the incidence is increasing. The average lifetime risk for a female developing an invasive breast cancer in north America is 1 in 8. The cause? Currently there is no one main risk factor linked to Breast Cancer. There are however some predispositions we can look out for such as family history. You can find more about looking into your family history and risk here.
The best time to do a self-breast exam is 5-7 days after a menstrual period when the breasts aren’t as swollen and tender. This goes for both pre and post menstruating women. If you’re breastfeeding, the best time to do this is after the breasts have been emptied. Do this exam once a month so you can get familiar with what your normal feels like.
Now, on to the touchy-feely stuff.
Standing in front of a mirror, give your breasts a quick one over. Any skin abnormalities to note are: redness, dimpling, puckering or prominent lumps. You also want to check your nipple position. Is it inverted? Has it always been? Or is it the opposite. Do this while your arms are in resting position at your sides, once with your arms lifted over your head and again with hands on hips and chest forward. Note any differences from your norm. Remember to check under your breasts as well.
Next while laying down using the pads of the fingers, apply light but firm pressure to your breasts. This is call palpating. You want to palpate your breasts starting in the upper outer portion of your breast (close to your armpit) and moving in clockwise around the breast until you reach the centre at the nipple area. You want to feel for any lumps that are firm and notice if any discharge comes from your nipples.
If you notice any abnormalities, your next step is to see your family doctor and get a mammogram done. We want to note that there are some benign breast conditions that can be found while doing a self-breast exam. Learn more about them here.
To learn more about breast cancer, visit the Canadian Cancer Society.
Let’s make Breast Health Awareness Month… every month! Share this info to keep the important females in your tribe – in the know!