Self Breast Examination and Mammograms - Education for Breast Cancer Awareness
This article contains top-level information on breast cancer awareness and early detection. It is important to consult with your doctor on any medical-related concerns or specific questions regarding your risk of breast cancer and screening options.
Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a globally recognized initiative to bring awareness and education to the prevention and eventual eradication of cancer, hundreds of organizations around the world gather in person and online to do their part to share information around education, awareness, and government action. This year, the team at Together Vibes™ is doing our part to speak to our specific community about breast cancer screening.
Cancer death is most preventable by early detection. Localized breast cancer detected in its early stages boasts a 99% survival rate after 5 years. The best way to go about making sure you give yourself the best odds is by doing a monthly breast self-examination, and having your OB/Gyn do a breast exam every 2-3 years if you’re under 40 and every year after that. Mammograms should be yearly starting at age 45 and can drop down to every two years after age 55.
To do a breast self-examination, there are three steps.
LIE ON YOUR BACKUsing the pads of your three middle fingers, perform part one of your breast self-examination by rotating around your breast making small circles. Start at the nipple and work your way outward to your armpit using varying pressure. Here, you’re looking for lumps, thickening, or any changes in the way your breasts feel. Afterward, squeeze your nipple for any discharge.
LOOK IN THE MIRRORFor this part of your breast self-examination, stand straight with your arms hanging at your side. Twist and turn to get different angles, keeping your arms down. Check for dimples, puckering, and differences in color or shape. Next, hold your arms above your head and do it again. Finally, with your hands straight down, flex your breast muscles by squeezing your boobs between your biceps. Check here for the same thing above - dimples, puckering, and pain.
STAND IN THE SHOWERThis one is exactly identical to step one. This part of your breast self-examination is about being thorough by checking a different perspective. Because boob weight changes based on your position, so too can the location of any potential lumps.
One of the best ways to help with early detection is to not only perform your own breast self-examination but to share that experience with your partner. Sometimes we see our bodies so often that we don’t notice anomalies, but partners do. This symbiosis has saved lives, so if it’s an option for you, be intentional about incorporating it into your life.
Consult Your Doctor
When you go into an OB/Gyn for a clinical breast exam, they essentially do the same thing you do at home during your breast self-examination, but with more experienced fingers. They know what to look for, and may catch something you may have missed.
What are Mammograms?
Mammograms are a little more intense than breast self-examinations or clinical breast exams. The process itself is simple; you stand in front of a special x-ray machine, lay your breasts on a plate. There is a top plate that will press down on your breasts to flatten them and hold them still while the x-ray is taken. While it is known to be uncomfortable for most, it can be painful for others. Whispers about the process from older generations tend to cause fear or anxiety around getting an exam and may make some breast owners shy away from making an appointment. With the known data that early detection saves lives, it’s important to find a way to manage that fear long enough to get through 15 minutes that could prevent devastation.
With that said, mammograms are being phased out by MRIs which are more sensitive and can rule out abnormalities that may not actually be cancer. It can also detect cancerous lumps much sooner than traditional mammograms.
Taking care of your breast health is one of the easiest and most important things you can do for your overall health. No matter your sex or gender, if you have breasts, you can get breast cancer. These exams are not to be used in lieu of each other, but rather in conjunction. Breast self-examinations, clinical breast exams, and mammograms/MRIs are friends in the fight to save all people with breast tissue.