Exam

It’s about knowing your breasts. Be familiar with YOUR breasts so that you can note changes that occur. It’ about knowing what’s normal for your breasts and knowing what’s not normal. According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), you have to check them frequently enough to know your breasts. It’s easiest to check them once a month at the same time in your cycle. There are limitations to all of the methods of detection and we need to use a combination of Breast Self-Exam (BSE), clinical breast exam, and mammography to screen properly. You brush your teeth, your floss, that seems benign enough. Checking your breasts should be viewed the same way.

How to perform an exam
Check your breasts 6 days after your period (or on the first of day of the month, if you no longer have periods). Do it in the shower, while your body is wet and soapy. Use the pads of 3 fingers to check each breasts for lumps. Move your fingers in a row pattern. Up and down all the way across one breast and then another.

Areas to check:

  • Outside: armpit to collar bone, and below breast
  • Middle: the breast itself
  • Inside: the nipple area

Things to look for after you shower:

  • Liquid coming from nipples
  • Puckering of the skin
  • Redness or swelling
  • Change in size or shape

We prefer the shower but you can also do a BSE lying down in bed. Do it in a place that is most comfortable and effective for you. The important thing is that you do it. If you feel any lumps or changes, call your doctor. Remember most lumps are not cancer. It’s not about finding cancer, it’s about knowing what is normal for your breasts. If something does not feel normal, call your doctor.

Three Step Approach:
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation recommends a 3-step approach to breast cancer screening that includes, depending on a woman’s age, a combination of mammography, clinical breast exams and breast self-exams.

  • Monthly breast self-exam beginning by age 20.
  • Clinical breast exam at least every 3 years beginning at age 20, and annually from age 40 on.
  • Annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40.

Women with a family history of breast cancer or other concerns about their personal risk should consult with a health care provider. Screening tests may need to be done more often and/or started earlier than usual. As part of a total approach to breast health, women should become familiar with own bodies, play an active role in their health, and develop a close partnership with their health care providers.