As we enter a month celebrating women, it is important to remember that we are all unique, beautiful, strong and worth taking care of. One of the ways we can look after ourselves is by making breast examinations not only a habit, but a priority.
Doing a regular self-check can be a really useful tool to catching possible breast cancers in their early stages. While it is not officially recognized as a “screening test” by the medical world, there are undoubtedly benefits to maintaining a regular and intimate knowledge of your own body, and self-checks are a great way to do that. It’s simple and can be done as part of your shower or dressing routine on a monthly basis. First things first, get to know your breasts, pay attention and learn what is “normal”. If you’re new to checking yourself, spend some time understanding what your breasts should and do feel like normally so that you can pick up any tissue abnormalities early. There are many “prescribed” ways to perform a check. If you are unsure or cannot find any self-check diagrams, you can contact your healthcare professional and have them assist you with your check. If you are able to do the check yourself, you should feel through all your tissue layers for possible bumps, lumps, or tenderness across both sides. Start at your armpit and work inwards towards your sternum feeling for anything unusual. Moving from your collarbone down to the ribs below the breast.
If you do feel something, don’t panic. There can be bumpy areas on the breast due to various reasons, benign growths, past tissue damage etc. Keep an eye on it and check if anything changes during or after your next menstrual cycle. It is always best to catch the situation early, so if you are unsure, nervous or feel a bit worried by anything you feel during your self check, go to your doctor and explain. It’s not weak to be concerned for and care about yourself. We all have people who rely on us in their lives, so be responsible to both them and yourself, and get yourself checked if you do feel a lump.
It is recommended by the Canser Association that Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so. Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
Take care of your body and it will take care of you.