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How (and Why) to Do a Self-Breast Exam

How (and Why) to Do a Self-Breast Exam

You get a clinical breast exam at your yearly well-woman exam, but that isn’t enough. In fact, you should perform regular monthly self-exams to feel for lumps or irregularities that could indicate cancer or another abnormality. 

Early detection of disease means early treatment. Early treatment saves lives and can help you avoid complications.

Our skilled surgical team at Lakeland Surgical Clinic, PLLC, located in Jackson, Mississippi, is ready to help you if you should find any abnormalities and need surgery. Here’s how to do those exams for early detection.

Are self-breast exams really necessary?

When you examine your breasts monthly, you get to know how they normally feel. That allows you to notice any lumps, signs of infection, or changes in texture early on and potentially prevent devastating disease complications.

Can a self-exam replace mammograms?

You still need regular mammograms and in-office clinical breast exams to monitor your breast health. 

Major health organizations recommend that women aged 50-74 who have an average risk of breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. If you’re between the ages of 40 and 49, talk to your OB/GYN about mammogram recommendations and your personal cancer risk. 

When should I do a breast self-exam?

If you’re a woman who still gets her period, the best time to do your breast exam is just after your period. If you’re in menopause, choose a day each month — like the 1st or the 15th — that you can remember consistently. 

How do I do the exam?

Start your exam by looking at your breasts in the mirror. Stand facing your reflection with your hands on your hips to identify any changes in shape, size, or color. Look for signs of distortion or swelling. Raise your arms to look at your breasts from a different angle.

Your next step is to lie down and feel your breasts. Use your right hand to create firm, circular motions that cover the entire left breast. Switch hands to examine the right breast. Explore the area from your armpit to your cleavage. Spend extra time around the nipple, too. 

The final part of your self-exam should be done in the shower so your hand can move easily against your skin. While you’re standing, feel around all the tissue to again look for any abnormalities. 

What observations should concern me?

If you notice dimpling, puckering, or bulging skin around your breasts or a nipple that’s changed position, alert your OB/GYN. Redness or soreness is also a concern. Report any discharge that you may see coming from your nipples.

If you feel lumps, thickened tissue, or roughness, call this to your doctor’s attention, too. Don’t panic, however. Most women have some lumpy areas in their breasts, and most turn out to be noncancerous. 

Your breast changes could very well be due to hormonal changes, a benign breast condition, or an injury. Getting it checked by your trusted OB/GYN or primary care doctor, though, can put your mind at ease and rule out a condition that requires immediate intervention.

If you do have breast irregularities that need surgery, make a call to Lakeland Surgical Clinic, PLLC, and set up an appointment. You may also request an appointment using the online scheduler. 

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