|Breast Self Exam|
A breast self exam on a routine schedule is one of three tests recommended by the American Cancer Society for the early detection of breast cancer. Early detection is the best defense against this cancer that continues to claim thousands of lives prematurely each year.
The size of the breast tumor and the subsequent spread of the tumor represent the most important factors of predicting the outcome of a woman diagnosed with the cancer. Therefore, early detection is imperative in preventing deaths from this type of cancer.
American Cancer Society Recommendations for Early Breast Cancer Detection:
Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year.
Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a clinical breast examination (CBE) by a health professional every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year. The CBE should be conducted close to and preferably before the scheduled mammogram.
Women age 20 or older should perform a breast self-examination (BSE) every month. By doing the exam regularly, you get to know how your breasts normally feel and you can more readily detect any signs or symptoms.
If a change occurs, such as development of a lump or swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain or retraction (turning inward), redness or scale like appearance of the nipple or breast skin, or a discharge other than breast milk, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible for evaluation. Remember that most of the time, these breast changes are not cancerous.
Although there are some features of a mass that suggest whether it is likely to be benign or cancerous, women doing self breast exams should discuss any new lump with their health care professionals. Experienced health care professionals can examine the breast and determine whether the changes you have noticed are probably benign or whether there is a possibility they may be due to a breast cancer. They can determine when additional tests are appropriate to rule out a cancer and when follow-up exams are the best strategy. If there is any suspicion of cancer, a biopsy will be done.
Women who follow the above recommendations from the American Cancer Society including the breast self exam have the best chance of early detection and the best prognosis should cancer be found.
Along with a yearly mammogram a proper self breast exam is very important in diagnosing and preventing the advancement of breast cancer. Women who regularly do self breast exams are more likely to notice even subtle changes. The best time for breast self examination is approximately 5-7 days after your period ends.
During this time frame most women's breast are not tender or swollen. Women who are not having regular periods, should do their self exams on the the same day every month. Women who have breast implants, are pregnant or breast-feeding, should also do regular breast self-examinations.
Breast Self Exam
Self Breast Exam
Next, women should perform the following to help ensure a proper breast self exam:
The following illustration represents the basic patterns that a woman should use while performing a breast self exam.