It’s October, which means that we are in the thick of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, right behind skin cancers, and it is affecting hundreds of thousands of new patients every year.
While it’s important for women to make sure they’re getting annual mammograms once they turn 40 (or even earlier, if breast cancer runs in the family), you can also check on them at home.
Being aware of our breasts and noticing any changes, big or small, can lead to early detection and give patients the best chance at fighting the disease.
Knowledge is power, and knowing your body and how to take care of is very important. Here are some easy ways to do an at-home breast exam.
Your Breasts Will Change Throughout the Month
Don’t panic if your breasts feel a little bit different today than they did last week. Your breasts are going to feel differently depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.
Recognize how your breasts feel prior to getting your period, during your period, and then after your period.
This will help you to understand what is “normal” and what is “abnormal” as you continue to do at-home checkups.
How to Do the Checkup
Using four fingers, begin at the outer edge of your breast and go around the entire breast, moving in a circle. Press on your breast in circular motions and see if you feel anything abnormal.
After checking the breast, use the same technique to check your armpit. Raise your arm above your head and feel for a lump or bump.
Finally, squeeze your nipple to see if there is discharge.
What to Watch Out For
When doing this self-exam, check to see if there is a change in the nipple or the skin around the nipple.
Other things to keep in mind is if there’s swelling near your armpit or any sort of lump near or around your breasts.
While it’s normal for your breasts to feel a little painful during your menstrual cycle if your breasts hurt for a long period of time, it may be a good idea to get them checked out.
Make It a Routine
It is important to do these at-home checkups regularly, so plan to do them while you’re doing something you already do on a regular basis.
For many people, they choose to do their breast checkups while they’re in the shower. If that doesn’t work for you, maybe do it while you’re getting dressed in the morning or getting undressed at night.
It doesn’t matter where you do it, it just matters that you do it often.