October is breast cancer awareness month, and while all women need to be regularly performing breast self-exams, not all women take the time, or know the right procedure to use. Used with other screening methods, self-examinations can increase your odds of early detection, and could potentially even save your life.
At Suncoast Women's Care, Wanda Torres, MD, FACOG, recommends regular self-examinations as part of the breast cancer screening process for her patients in the Trinity, Florida area. To get started with regular breast self-examinations, or to get back into the habit this autumn, follow the guidelines below.
Five steps to follow regularly
When you give yourself a breast exam, follow these five steps:
- Look at your breasts in a mirror, arms on your hips and shoulders straight. Check for changes in size, shape, or color. Take note of any visible distortion or swelling.
- Raise your arms above your head and perform a similar visual check.
- Visually check for any signs of fluid, either clear, milky, or yellow, from your nipples.
- Use your hands to check your breasts while lying down. Check your left breast with your right hand and vice versa. With a firm, smooth touch, make a small circular motion with your first few finger pads. Check the entire breast from top to bottom and side to side.
- Finally, use your hands to check your breasts while sitting up or standing. Use a similar circular hand motion, and be sure to completely and methodically check both breasts.
For best results, you should conduct self-examinations regularly, at least several times a month. If you have a high degree of risk for breast cancer, keeping an exam journal may be a good idea. Journaling your exams can also help you keep up the habit of routine self-checks. Self-examination is a low-cost, low-stress way for you to stay informed about your breast health.
Risks for false positives
Breast self-examinations can produce false positives, so don't panic if you feel a lump or other irregularity. Lumps can be naturally occurring and completely benign. Let your doctor know about the issues you've detected, and rely on other tests to identify any underlying problems. Further screenings will show if other treatments are needed, or if the lump you found was benign.
Suncoast Women's Care can provide a checkup exam, mammography, ultrasound, or MRI scan. It's better to know than to be in doubt, so we recommend that you perform self-examinations, but also take the results with a grain of salt. When you come in for an appointment to evaluate a breast lump, we take your health history and conduct a physical exam before ordering any necessary tests.
With early detection, breast cancer has a better chance of successful treatment. The American Cancer Society recommends using multiple methods to screen for breast cancer. If you have any questions about breast self-examination, or are concerned about a lump or irregularity you found during a self-examination, contact Suncoast Women's Care today. Dr. Torres and our care team are here to help. To schedule your appointment, call our office, or use the online booking tool.