By Janecia Britt
The best way to prevent cancer is to be proactive. Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Johns Hopkins Medical center states, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” Now, a self-exam is considered to be less effective than other techniques, such as regular mammograms. This has led groups such as the American Cancer Society to deem breast self-exams optional. While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your health care professional if there are any changes.
There are a few ways to perform a breast self-exam on yourself. These being in front of a mirror, in the shower or lying down, the most common is lying down, as it is easier to feel for lumps or abnormalities.
- When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall.
- Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head.
- Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
- Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps.
- Repeat these steps for your left breast.
If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but don’t panic — 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. For additional peace of mind, call your doctor whenever you have concerns.
*For more information on mammograms and self-exams visit nationalbreastcancer.org