It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Three Important Steps for Proactive Care
Examining your breasts regularly is the best way to keep on the right side of any changes in your body. Start by looking in the mirror and keep an eye out for any dimpling or skin puckering, nipple inversion or position changes, or redness, swelling, or soreness. Next, raise your arms and look for the same changes. Finally, lie down on a bed or the floor and using your first three fingers, gently but firmly massage the breast in circular motions. Use the left arm for the right breast and vice versa, moving all the way across the breast from the underarm around and inward until you’ve examined each one fully. Remember, you’re feeling for lumps, bumps, or anything that seems a little out of the ordinary. Some women find that applying pressure in horizontal and vertical strokes also works well. Finally, examine yourself the same way the next time that you’re in the shower. The water makes the skin more slippery which can sometimes make irregularities easier to feel.
Going to the doctor isn’t fun, especially when you’re feeling perfectly healthy. But visiting your OB/GYN on the regular is an important part of proactive care and an exam will help you to feel at peace knowing that everything is up to scratch. A well-woman exam will include a chat with your doctor or nurse about your menstrual cycle and any changes that have happened over the course of the year. Depending on your age, you may discuss your sexual health and any testing or prescriptions that go along with it. There will be a breast exam and a pelvic exam to make sure everything is in working order. For women over 21, your doctor will take a pap test to check for early signs of cervical cancer. If you’re over 40, a mammogram might be included depending on your family history. Again, each part of the visit is designed with preventative care in mind. While self-exams are crucial, an annual visit to the doctor will help you to better understand the full picture.
As we mentioned, a mammogram might be part of a well-woman exam and it’s important to understand why. Mammograms are x-rays of the breast and they are designed for women over 40 when breast cancer is more likely to form. Mammograms can give your doctor an inside look at your breasts and can detect tumors or other cancerous conditions before they get large enough to be able to feel. Why is this important? Breast cancer is aggressive and finding and treating it early is one of the best ways to be able to get rid of it for good. By scheduling an appointment for an annual mammogram, you’re giving yourself the best chance of success for early detection.
Don’t forget, if breast cancer is detected early and is localized, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%. Be proactive, take control of your health, and talk about it with your friends. Let’s join together in making women’s health our number one priority.
Information for this article was gathered from breastcancer.org, The National Breast Cancer Foundation, and Planned Parenthood. Visit these sites to find out more and to download your free early detection guide.