This article was written by Lisa Turner and originally published in Amazing Wellness magazine.
The earlier breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the odds of successfully treating it. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends average-risk women get yearly mammograms between the ages of 45 and 54.
Research suggests that women who get regular mammograms are:
- more likely to catch breast cancer early
- less likely to need surgery and chemotherapy
- more likely to be cured
Besides regular mammograms and breast exams by your physician, though, it’s also important to check your breasts at home for any suspicious changes.
When To Do An At-Home Breast Exam
Hormonal changes before and during your period can cause a temporary thickening of the breast tissue that makes it hard to feel for lumps and bumps. So, the best time to do a self breast exam is three to five days after your period ends.
It’s also best to do your breast exam right after your annual physical. Since your doctor would likely have felt anything abnormal during your visit, you’ll know that what you’re feeling should be the normal, healthy state of your breasts.
Three Ways To Check Your Breasts
1. Lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and your right hand under your head. Using your left hand, move in small circles all around your right breast and out toward (and under) your armpit. Vary the pressure you use in order to feel everything from the surface of your breast all the way down to your ribs. Then, switch sides and repeat the process on your left breast.
2. Stand with your arms at your sides in front of a mirror in a well-lit room. Look for any dimpling, bumps, redness, or changes in breast shape or symmetry. Repeat with your arms overhead, again with your hands pressing firmly on your hips and your chest muscles flexed, and once more bending forward.
3. In the shower, soap up your hands well. Raise your right arm over your head and check your right breast using the same technique as in the lying-down method. (Use flat fingers.) Switch arms, and repeat on your left breast.
Though cancer may be better detected during mammograms and doctor’s visits, it’s important that women are familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel so that they’re better able to identify any changes.