The American Cancer Society says breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.
What can you do to combat this life-taker? Some doctors say the cancer can be stopped if caught early enough.
A good way to keep up with your body and make sure you’re ahead of the curve is to check your breasts for lumps every month with a breast self-exam.
Learning what’s normal (and not normal) about your boobs will help you on your journey of staying healthy.
Here’s a quick how-to when it comes to checking for lumps.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation explains what you should be looking for during your pat down. They suggest checking yourself out once a month in private.
The foundation gives three easy places to do the exam including the shower, in front of a mirror and lying down.
In the shower, put your pointer and middle finger together and press your breasts lightly enough that it doesn’t hurt. Move your fingers in a circular direction and remember to check your arm pits too.
In front of a mirror, stand without your top on and check out your breasts. Do they look normal? Is there anything out of the ordinary? Now lift up your arms over your head. See any protruding bumps or something kind of off? After that, put your hands on your hips and flex your pecks. The center says to look for any puckering or changes to either side.
Now lie down straight on a bed without your shirt off. This test will be similar to the one you did in the shower. Facing up, put a pillow under your back on one side and lift one arm behind that pillow. Use the other arm and use those two fingers again to check for any lumps. Now, switch over and repeat on the other side. Again, don’t forget to check the armpit area, too.
The next time you visit the doctor, show them how you usually check yourself and ask if they think you’re doing it correctly. I’m sure they’d love to know you’re keeping up with your body and could answer any questions about your technique.
Now, at what age should you start looking for abnormalities?
All women in their 20s and older are told to check themselves once a month. The sooner this becomes a habit, the easier it will be to remember this very important check up.
This could be a perfect time for you to talk with your daughter or a young girl who’s close to you (with parental guidance) about their bodies. Some older teens are finally getting used to the change after puberty and as everything slowing down, breast self-exams are a good thing to put into their head early on.
How am I ever going to remember to check?
Pick a day that’s easy to remember—and a time when your breasts are the least swollen.
Maybe the first of the month is perfect for you. How about every time you have a water bill payment? If you and your best friend or sisters are really close, pick the same day and send each other reminders. Just pick a day and add it to your calendar.
Did you find something odd on your breast?
All right, you think you’ve found something and you’re probably freaking out. Stop, breathe and set up an appointment with your doctor. They’re the ones who’ll be able to tell you if you have nothing to worry about or if other tests need to be done to make sure you’re okay.
The Mayo Clinic says most lumps found in your 20s to 50s are noncancerous or benign, but you should see a physician just to be safe.