October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and an essential time to highlight the importance of early breast cancer detection. With one out of eight women experiencing breast cancer at some point in their lives, early detection is key to ensuring successful treatment and recovery. Regular visits to your ob-gyn for breast exams and mammograms are important; however, you can take steps at home each month to detect breast cancer.
How to Perform a Self-Breast Exam
Self-examinations should begin as early as the teenage years, but by age 20, women should be performing self-breast exams on a regular basis. They take only a few minutes and should especially be performed one week after the start of your period. The first part of a self-exam should be done in front of a mirror. Check the appearance of your breast from multiple angles and note any changes in breast size or shape. Notice if the texture of your skin looks irritated, dimpled, or retracted. The nipples should be checked for fluid discharge. They may also be turned inward or enlarged.
The second part of the exam can be done standing or lying down. You can start with your right breast by raising your right arm and placing your hand behind your head. With your left hand, feel your breast with the tips of your three middle fingers. Search for signs of lumps or masses. These should feel very firm and are usually painless. Squeeze the nipple with your finger and thumb to see if discharge appears. After this, perform the test again on the left breast, reversing the hands you used for the right side.
If you have detected any of the symptoms described above, alert your gynecologist in Tarzana, CA as soon as possible for a clinical exam.