Early Detection is very important in regards to the fight against breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second deadliest cancer for cisgender women. Over 240,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the U.S. and 40,000 people die from the disease. This is the reason why early detection is important, the risks are even greater for those with a history of breast cancer in their families.
One way to screen for early signs of breast cancer is to monitor your breast for any changes or irregularities with monthly self breast exams. To be truly effective, women's health experts recommend the following five-step process once a month to identify anything suspicious.
1. Stand in the mirror and study your breast.
I can say that I personally stand in the mirror naked before and after a shower, just to affirm myself as a self-love ritual and body positivity. However, Before you shower, look at your breast with your shoulders straight and hands on your hips. This first step is a visual exam of your breast.
Do you see any abnormalities that concern you? Are there any changes to the skin around your breast?
2. Here's what you should be looking for:
Any unusual or drastic differences in size and shape between the two breast
Watch for discharge. Unless you are lactating, healthy breast should not secrete fluid.
Visible Lumps, dimpling or indentations in the breast tissue
Changes to your nipples, such as one that's pushed in or pulling
Redness, scaling or other changes to the skin or nipples that appear abnormal
3. Repeat with your arms above your head.
Raise your arms above your head and examine your breast for the same changes in step #2. Keep in mind that both breast will not match exactly, as naturally one of our breast may be slightly larger. Look for visible lumps, indentations, rippling or puckering mostly on one side.
4. Feel your breast while lying down.
Lie down and prop one arm behind your head or pillow and take three fingers to feel all around the perimeter of your breast in circular motions, from the outside in. Next, move from the top of your collarbone to the top of your abdomen (underneath the breast). Also, feel from your armpit to your cleavage. Increase the pressure with every pass. Next, turn over to your side and repeat the same steps, as well as the opposite side.
5. Feel your breast while sitting, then standing.
Sit up and continue to examine your breast as you did in step 4. Make sure you move from the lower part of your breast up to the area under your arm to check for any swollen lymph nodes on both breast. Repeat while standing.
Remember: You are looking for any abnormalities that stands out and feels different than the surrounding breast tissue. If you discover a lump that feels similar to a pea, marble or walnut, consult with your doctor to get a medical exam.
A self breast exam should be done monthly, a few days- a week after your period. At this time your breast are least likely to be swollen and tender from your menstrual cycle. If you are no longer experiencing menstruations choose a day that you will remember every month, such as the 1st.
Get familiar with your breast, make it a ritual! The more you examine your breast the more you know what is normal for you, and what isn't normal. Be consistent it's the only way you will detect any abnormalities early on.