Andrea is one of many women who believe that her hands have saved her life. And it only took her 10 minutes a month.
Five and half years ago, she found a lump in her breast — a lump that was later diagnosed as breast cancer. Andrea now advocates to other women that they too, take just a few minutes each month to perform this potentially life-saving exercise.
The MammAlive foundation encourages self breast exams (SBEs) as an important part of healthy breast screening. The data supports this position. They should be used along with clinical breast exams (performed by a skilled practitioner) and imaging as advised by your health care team. This combination of tools gives you greatest chance of early detection of anomalies.
By simply touching, and observing, you will get to know your body better. The better you know your body, the more confident you can be when everything is okay; and the more likely you will know it if something is wrong.
If you are new to SBEs, start by Look in the mirror at your unclothed chest, and simply observe. Do this daily, before or after bathing, when getting dressed or when preparing for bed. Then gently place your hands on your chest. Notice what you feel — maybe a sensation, maybe an emotion, maybe nothing at all.
When you are comfortable, use the pads of you fingers to palpate in a systematic way. Approach this as an opportunity to observe health. If you find a lump, don’t panic. Lumps that are soft, moveable, and clearly defined are more likely to be benign. Especially if it changes over the course of a month. In fact, most women find that they have lumps that change according to their menstrual cycles. If you find anything concerning, or out of the normal for you, bring it to the attention of your naturopath or family doctor.
Schedule SBEs into your monthly routine. Menstruating women should do them between days 5 and 7 of their menstrual cycle (day 1 is the first day of bleeding). Women who no longer have menstrual cycles can use the date of their birth. If your birthday is June 3rd, do them on the 3rd of every month. Or, join Andrea and many other women around the world, doing their exams on the 8th of every month as a celebration of International Women’s Day.
P.S. Stay tuned. The MammAlive foundation has a Breast Self Exam Instructional Video coming soon.