Breast Self Exams: Do They Really Help?
An important part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is understating the self exam. Self exams and other tests have been in the news a lot lately as doctor’s debate over the best methods for detecting breast cancer. What’s the right thing to do? How do you protect yourself and your loved ones from breast cancer?
One of the easiest things you can do is a breast self exam. While data suggests now that it might not be a large help in finding very small lumps, there are still some great benefits. The increased self awareness may alert you to changes and also helps you play a more active role in your health. It helps make you more aware of your risk: does breast cancer run in your family? Do you personally have risk factors that will affect you?
If you notice any changes after doing a breast exam, such as:
- Lump, hard knot or thickening
- Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening
- Change in the size or shape of the breast
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
You should speak with a medical professional. Breast tissue is naturally lumpy, so look in particular for changes that don’t feel like the rest of your breast, or different from the other breast. If the lumpiness you feel is consistent, then it is likely to be normal tissue. Susan G. Komen offers a helpful guide for performing a breast self exam.
If you find a lump or any other suspicious change, it’s best to have it examined by a professional. They may want to do a mammogram to examine it further. If you don’t have insurance, Maternal & Family Health Services may be able to help. Call 1.877.MAMMO.4.U today to see if you qualify for a free mammogram.