Do I Really Need a Yearly Breast Exam?
Did you know that it is you (yes you) who will most likely be the one to notice any changes in your breast before your doctor does?The answer is a resounding YES! Actually, you should be doing a self-check of your breasts every single month and every year. Did you know that it is you (yes you) who will most likely be the one to notice any changes in your breast before your doctor does? For this reason, monthly self-breast exams are recommended. These monthly at home check-ups will help you become more familiar with your own breasts.
Now that you know how to do your monthly check ups, we can move on to the yearly clinical breast checks that your doctor will give you in his or her office. These are important to do at least once a year or sooner if you encounter any changes in your breast. Changes to be on the lookout for (besides lumps) are:
- Dimpling of the skin around the breast
- Breast skin that looks like an orange peel
- Your nipple turning itself inside your breast or inverting
- Redness on the breast
- Persistent pain that will not go away (not associated with your menstrual cycle)
Your doctor will perform the same self check you are giving yourself every month with the added benefit of trained and experienced eyes that know exactly what to look for.
Sadly, what we are hearing more often than not is that women do not know what to look for when doing a self-exam and consequently are not doing these self-exams every month. Surprisingly, they are pretty easy and only take a few minutes to do. You can perform them while in front of a mirror, when in the shower or even when you are lying down.
How easy is it to do? Just take your fingertips and move them in a circular pattern starting from the outside of the breast and work your way to the center taking note of any lumps or hard masses. Once at the nipple, squeeze the nipple and check for any discharge or lumps there as well. Also check your armpit area for any lumps or masses. That’s it! So the next time you are standing in the front of a mirror, take a few minutes, raise your arm and check your breast. Or the next time you take a shower, raise your arm and check your breast. Or next time you are lying down – maybe even when you wake up in the morning or go to bed at night, raise your arm and (yup you guessed it) check your breast. See how easy it is to find the time to check and to do the exam?
Mammograms may help you detect cancer. They will show a breast lump that cannot be felt or that may have been missed by a cursory exam. The mammogram will also show any cysts, calcification’s or even simple fatty cells. Lumps are usually benign however it’s best to make sure. At that point a doctor may want to take a biopsy of the breast tissue where the lump is found. He may also want to get an MRI of the breast to get a better look at the lump to ascertain that the lump is benign and not cancerous.
Do your first mammogram when you turn 40. The first mammo will establish a base view of the breast to have something to compare it to when you do your mammo the following year. This way it will be easier to see if there are any changes in your breast in the course of the year. It is recommended that women have a mammogram every 1-3 years after they turn 40 however if you have a history of breast cancer in your family then you should go for one before you turn 40.
Why exactly do you need a breast exam?
- 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
- Breast cancer is the most common non skin cancer – getting your breasts examined may help you to detect cancer
- Early detection will increase the chances of being able to treat and survive this fatal disease
Speak to your health care professional to determine when you should go for your first one. Early detection is the best protection.
Don’t have a doctor yet? Come visit New Life OBGYN and schedule your breast exam today! They have an have excellent team of doctors and midwives whose specialty is womens health. Stop by any of their 4 offices located in Brooklyn and NYC. Also stop by this blog to get the latest and most up to date womens healthcare news!