A Guide to Breast Self-Exams
- A brave breast cancer survivor recently went topless on morning TV to show women how to perform self-exams.
- One of our experts says a crucial step to raising breast cancer awareness it to make sure women feel comfortable with their breasts and know what their breasts feel like normally.
- Since some women may have a harder time performing breast self-exams than others, self-exams should be done every month in order to become more familiar with their individual breast tissue, according to one of our experts.
- The Mayo Clinic says to contact your doctor if you notice changes to your breasts, such as a hard lump or knot near your underarm or changes in the way your breasts look or feel, including thickening, new dimples or puckering or bulges.
A recent episode of ITV’s “This Morning,” a British morning TV program, focused on breast cancer and the show’s resident general practitioner, Dr. Sarah Kayat, enlisted the help of a breast cancer survivor named Leigh-Ann to show women how to perform self-exams.Read More
Leigh-Ann went topless to give viewers the best possible demonstration. And she revealed that it was, in fact, a self-exam that led to her 2021 diagnosis. She received tons of support from viewers at home and online, praising her for her bravery in the way she called attention to self-exams.View this post on Instagram
Leigh-Ann is not the first breast cancer survivor to dedicate themselves to sharing crucial information. One of SurvivorNet’s partners, breast cancer survivor Suzette Simon, is also a determined breast cancer advocate. Below is her own video showing how to do a self-exam:
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An Intro to Breast Self-Exams for Breast Cancer Awareness
Breast self-exams are a key part of breast cancer prevention and early detection. So, it’s important to know how to do them, where to feel and what to look for.
In a previous interview, SurvivorNet advisor Dr. Elizabeth Comen talked about the role of self-exams in breast cancer prevention.
Getting to Know Your Breasts with Self-Exams
“When we think about breast cancer prevention and awareness, the first step is that women need to feel comfortable with their breasts and that they know what their breasts feel like normally,” Dr. Comen explained. “And for some women, that may mean going to their doctor and walking through what a self-breast exam might feel like so that they know what normal breast tissue feels like, so that if they do feel anything abnormal – whether it’s a lump or discharge from the nipple – that they know what to ask and what to look for.”
Dr. Comen continued by explaining that some women may have a harder time performing self-exams than others. So, self-exams should be done every month in order to become more familiar with their individual breast tissue. According to the Mayo Clinic, the week after your period ends is usually the best time to perform a self-exam.
“Some women have what’s called fibrocystic breasts, meaning they have very lumpy, bumpy breasts, and it’s hard for them to know what’s normal and what’s not,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be exactly every month, but not right before the period because their breasts may be more swollen and tender after their period.”
Speak Up if You Think Something Is Wrong
Some women find it easiest to perform a self-exam in the shower — when its easy for your hands to gluide over your breasts — or while laying down, but you can find the setting that works best for you. As a warning, Dr. Comen wants to remind people of areas containing breast tissue they might not be aware of.
“If a woman feels a lump in her axilla, or her armpit, that’s also important to tell their doctor about,” she said. “That could be a lymph node that has breast cancer in it, it could be something totally unrelated, like they have a rash, and so they just have an enlarged lymph node.
“But it’s important to know that breast tissue can extend all the way up into the armpit. It can also extend closer to the clavicle… So, anything in that quadrant that a woman feels that is abnormal, they really should take the time to talk to their doctor.”
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