Live your breast life.
Fact: when breast cancer is detected early, the 5-year survival rate can be greater than 98%. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Ladies, it's time to start checking yourself. And I'm here to tell you how.
Women who regularly see their docs should hear that same question every visit: "Are you performing breast self exams at least once a month?" We all nod and smile and say yes of course, but so often, the truth of that question is no. And the reason behind that no is because so many women, simply don't know how or know what to look for. After you read this blog post, you should no longer have that excuse.
Step 1: Know your normal
Just like every woman is different, every boob is different. The first step to a breast self exam is to know what is normal for you. And keep in mind, what's "normal" for you might not be normal for a friend. We all have various types of lumps within the tissue that come and go but what's the most important to notice are when there are changes in how your breasts feel. This will get easier once you get in a habit of doing a self exam once a month. (If you want a monthly reminder, definitely sign up for Bright Pink's monthly reminders! They are an awesome tool to make sure you don't forget to check yourself.)
Step 2: Timing is everything
A tip from my doc that not only helps me remember when to do my self exam but is also a practical tip is to perform your exam towards the end or just after your menstrual cycle. This is when your breast tissue is the softest and easiest to feel something that might not be right. Plus it's an easy way to remember that it's breast check time. Once a month is a pretty standard recommendation for these exams from what I've read. The biggest thing though is to just start getting into a habit and work exams into your routine.
Step 3: Ok, time to check yourself.
I do my exams right before or after a shower and they take literally 5 minutes... but those 5 minutes have the power to save your life.
I tend to think it's easier to put one arm up and do the exam with the opposite hand. Take two or three fingers and starting closer to the center of your breast and working your way out, make slow circular motions with varying pressure from your finger tips. You want to feel for anything abnormal both on the surface level as well as in the deepest parts of your tissue.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that you should be checking not only your breast but all the way up to your collar bone, all the way back to your arm pits, and down to your breast bone because breast cancer can also develop in these places.
Step 4: Here's what to look for
If any of these symptoms persist for 2-3 weeks, see your doctor.
- A lump, particularly one that is hard and feels like a frozen pea
- New, persistent pain in one spot
- Warmth, redness, or darkening
- swelling, soreness, or a rash
- Dimpling or puckering of the skin
- Change in size or shape
- Nipple discharge, one that becomes flat or inverted, and / or itchiness or scaliness around the nipple
- Bumps that resemble bug bites
Step 5: REPEAT.
Making breast self exams a habit every single month truly has the power to save your life. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make October the first month you start checking yourself. It takes 5 minutes and it can save your life. I also strongly encourage every woman out there to sign up for Bright Pink's monthly reminders to help you make checking yourself a regular routine.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their life time. Yes, you read that right - ONE. IN. EIGHT. That means chances are, you know someone who this disease has affected. The more you know, the more tools you have in your arsenal to prevent or at least catch it early. My mom waited two years between mammograms and was lazy about self exams. By the time they found her lump, she was stage four - the highest stage - and she will have to live with the disease until the day she passed, which thankfully hasn't come yet. But it's been a 13 year long fight so far and counting.
This October, if you haven't started already, pleaseeeeee start checking yourself and tell all the girls in your life to check themselves too. Together, we can get rid of that 1 in 8 statistic. Together, we can lower our odds of letting this disease beat us.