Should You Do A Breast Self-Exam?
Regular visits to your primary care provider are important, but in between those visits, regular breast self-exams can help you detect irregularities. In 2018 alone, an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. Speak with your general practitioner about your genetic risks and physical warning signs and complete a breast self-exam once every 30 days to spot changes.
Are Breast Self-Exams Beneficial?
The debate over whether a breast self-exam helps detect cancer any earlier is ongoing. The American Cancer Society says breast self-exams for women who regularly get mammograms may have limited benefits. However, mammograms aren’t recommended by the organization until age 40 for women of average risk for breast cancer, so breast self-exams are recommended by many primary care providers as another form of protection.
Breastcancer.org continues to promote breast self-exams as a breast cancer screening tool, especially when partnered with regular visits to your general practitioner. The organization states that some breast cancers are only found by physical examination, not by mammography, making breast self-exams a vital part to a woman’s overall breast cancer screening strategy.
5 breast self-exam tips
Speak with your Conway family medicine doctor to determine the best screening procedures for you. If breast self-exams are a part of your general practitioner’s plan, here are some tips to follow:
- Make it routine. A self-exam is recommended once a month. By making the exam routine, you’ll learn how your breasts should look and feel and more readily notice a change. If you notice something out of the ordinary, make an appointment with your primary care doctor.
- Examine all portions. Include your armpit area in your self-exam. The upper, outer area of your breast tends to have the most prominent lumps and bumps, according to Breastcancer.org, so be sure to visually and physically inspect the area. You’ll also examine the lower and upper portions of your breast and your nipples.
- Document your exams. If you keep a breast self-exam journal, you’ll be more likely to perform the screening each month and can note any areas of concern or changes from month-to-month.
- Don’t panic. If you feel a lump, schedule an appointment with your general practitioner if it concerns you. Keep in mind that some women may form small bumps in their breast while menstruating, so consider other reasons for the change.
- Speak with your primary care doctor. Even if you’re consistent with your breast self-exams, visiting your general practitioner is also a key to good breast health.
Completing a monthly breast self-exam will help you track any changes with your breast health. In many cases, only the changes that last more than a full menstrual cycle or seem to grow over time need your general practitioner’s attention.