Breast cancer is the second-most common cancer among women, and 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
Although breast cancer can’t be prevented, there’s a lot you can do to protect your health and lower your risk. Identifying cancerous changes as early as possible gives you more treatment options. In fact, breast cancer has a five-year survival rate of 99% when it’s localized and detected early.
The best proactive care includes regular well-woman exams and mammograms as you get older. Along with professional care, breast self-examination is an easy way to familiarize yourself with your breasts, so you can identify any changes early on.
At OB-GYN Associates of Marietta, our team works with women of all ages to promote their best health. We believe proactive care starts at home, and we’re here to teach you how to conduct breast self-exams.
How to do a breast self-exam
No one knows your body better than you do. Breast self-exams are a simple, proactive way to stay in touch with your body and your breasts.
Conducting a self-exam takes just a few minutes, and making them part of your routine can help you identify any changes in your breasts earlier rather than later. Here’s how to do it.
1. Look for changes
Start by standing in front of a mirror for a visual exam. Hold your arms at your sides, then lift them above your head. As you move, look for changes in the shape of your breasts. These changes may include dimpling, puckering, or swelling.
2. Feel for changes
Remain standing and lift one arm above your head. Using the pads of your fingers, gently feel your breast and armpit for changes. Changes in feel can include lumps, areas of thickened tissue, or hard knots. Lower your arm and repeat on the other side.
Finally, lie down on your back. Lift one arm above your head and feel your breast and armpit again. Feel for changes in tissue, and check your nipple for unusual lumps or discharge. Repeat on the other side.
When to do breast self-exams
All adult women should conduct breast self-exams monthly, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Prioritize setting aside a few minutes once a month to do a self-exam, and it could save your life.
Remember to look for things like lumps, pain, or changes in the way your breasts look and feel. If you notice changes or there’s anything you’re unsure about, schedule a professional breast exam.
Our team provides breast exams, and we can help you identify the right next steps to take.
Scheduling medical breast exams
Breast self-exams aren’t a substitute for routine medical care. Even if you don’t notice unusual changes during your self-exams, you should get annual well-woman exams to protect your health.
Your well-woman exam includes a medical breast exam. Beginning around age 40, ask our team about getting annual mammograms. Mammograms are breast X-rays to detect tumors, and they’re an important preventive screening for all women as they age.
Do you want to learn more about breast self-exams and ways to protect yourself against breast cancer? We’re here to help. Call our offices in Marietta or Woodstock, Georgia, to set up a consultation today.