5 Helpful Tips for Breast Exam

by Cathy Miller on February 12, 2013

in Health and Wellness

Names 2012 Walk-small image

As a soon-to-be 10 time participant in the 3-Day Walk for the Cure, I figure I’d better walk the talk.

I stay current on my mammography screenings. I’ll leave it up to you and your physician to decide which side of the debate you fall on in terms of frequency.

Me? I go annually.

  • My sister is a 12+ year survivor
  • 3 of my Fight Like A Girl teammates are survivors
  • And I am in that *ahem* older category

A few years ago, I moved to Idaho. For the first time, the place where I had my mammogram, also provided a breast exam.

Not just a 2-minute exam, but a thorough, caring visit. Each year I learn something new.

So, with a shout-out to St. Luke’s Breast Cancer Detection Center (BCDC – Meadow Lake), I thought I’d share 5 helpful tips for breast exam.

Tip #1 – Think mirror image.

The professionals at BCDC shared something I had not heard before.

Your breasts are mirror images of one another. 

If you feel something in one breast, examine the other breast – in the exact same area. If it does not match, contact your physician’s office.

Don’t panic.  I know – yeah, right. There is a high probability that the lump is not breast cancer. But, do check it out.

As the BCDC professional told me, early detection often occurs because the patient found something that looked or felt different, rather than any specific shape or size.

Tip #2 – Use mirror image.

You want to add a visual examination to your routine.

Stand in front of a mirror and check for any changes or differences in your breasts.

Again, if you see something different, it is better to have it checked out instead of dismissing it.

Use different positions for examination.

  • Arms raised
  • Hands on hips
  • Pushing against the palms of your hands

Tip #3 – Lie down.

Before you lie down, you can also sit in front of a mirror to complete your visual examination.

Then lie down and examine your breasts. Remember the mirror image for examination.

There are several good sites for illustrations for a thorough self-examination. The following are just a few.

Health care professionals recommend monthly self-examination.

Bonus Tip: After you receive your “all clear’ from your mammogram, perform a self-examination to establish your “normal.”

Tip #4 – Expand the area examined.

You probably know to examine your armpit area, as that is a location for lymph nodes.

Did you know you should examine your chest area, up to your collar bone? 

The first year I walked in the 3-Day, 60 Mile Walk for the Cure, there was a beautiful 18-year-old girl walking with a friend. They both had on strapless, long, shocking pink prom dresses.

It turns out that the 18-year-old had breast cancer at age 16. She was an athlete and a lump in the chest area was dismissed as a probable sports injury. It was breast cancer.

I share the story, not to frighten you. It is simply another example of why caution is the better path to take.

Not to mention, what an inspiration this young lady and her friend were. Her story (and many others) are part of the reason this old lady is still walking 60 miles every year.

Tip #5 Remember, men get breast cancer, too.

While living in San Diego, I had a favorite local newscaster, Bill Griffith.

I’ll never forget the day he announced he had breast cancer. I was already a participant in the 3-Day Walk, but most of us do not really think about men getting breast cancer. Bill became a vocal advocate for breast cancer awareness. I have worn his name on the Walk every year since.

The following statistics are from Breast Cancer.org.

  • Projections for 2011 estimated 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men
  • A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000

Breast cancer does not discriminate.

The above tips are a small sampling of what I learned while taking the preventive steps to fight this disease.

What tips do you have to offer?

 

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Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller is not an attorney or health care provider and cannot provide legal or health care advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal or health care advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel and visit your physician for health care issues.

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