Breast care is an important part of overall health care. We encourage women to conduct monthly self-examinations, in addition to regular mammograms after age 40, since finding and treating breast cancer early can save your life.
The first step for the monthly self-exam is to learn what is normal for your breasts.
This will help you detect changes and report them to your doctor. All women should do a breast self-exam once a month, including women who:
Have gone through menopause
Have breast implants
The best time to perform the self-exam is a few days after your period ends each month when your breasts are less tender and swollen. If you no longer have periods, it helps you remember to do the exam if you do it on the same day each month.
Methods For Examining Your Breasts
Looking and Feeling are the two parts of the exam:
Look closely at your breasts for changes in skin tone or appearance. Sit or stand in front of a mirror and be sure you have good light. Examine your breasts with your hands pressed tightly on your hips, then with your arms raised high over your head.
Feel your breasts for changes. You can do this lying flat on your back, standing, or while taking a shower or bath. It is a good idea to examine your breasts both lying down and standing. Examine one breast at a time by keeping fingers flat and together, gently feeling for changes without pressing too hard. There are three methods you can use. Once you find the method that works best for you, use that pattern only.
Remember to examine your nipples. Check for any discharge or change in appearance. Also check the upper chest are and below the armpits, as these areas contain breast tissue.
Signs of a Problem
If you notice any of the following signs during your breast self-exam, call your Capital Women's Care doctor. We are here to answer any questions and to determine the best course of further treatment.
Nipple retraction (nipple turns in)
Redness of nipple or breast skin
Scaly nipple or breast skin
In addition to monthly self-exams and annual doctor visits, woman over 40 should include a mammogram as part of their breast care program. A mammogram is a special x-ray of the breast that is one of the best ways to detect breast cancer in its early stage.
How Often Should I Have A Mammogram?
Women age 40 to 50 years: every one to two years
Women age 50 and older: every year
Women with a first degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast or ovarian cancer prior to menopause: every year