Are Breast Self-Exams Useful?

Woman holds breast as she performs monthly self-exam for breast cancer screening as recommended by Dr. Jinny Gunn at Minimally Invasive Institute of SurgeryBreast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in the United States. Over 280,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, so be sure to know your risks and what you can do to mitigate them. Your annual mammogram is a great way to screen for cancerous growth, but self-examinations between mammograms can help detect growths in the breast tissue.

How to Do It

Twenty five percent of women discover their breast cancer through self-examination. That number alone should motivate you to occasionally feel around for any lumps and bumps in the area. Almost twenty percent of breast cancer patients found the growth accidentally.
While doing a breast self-examination you should focus on your breasts both visually and by touch. Look in the mirror, are your breasts normal size and color? Do you notice abnormalities? Raise your arms above your head and see if that causes any changes in their appearance, looking for dimples, bulges, redness, or fluid excretion.
After studying the visual appearance of your breasts, you can start feeling for any lumps in the tissue. Lay down and feel your breasts with the pads of your fingers, moving in a circular motion from around the nipple up to your collar bone and armpit. You should feel every inch of your breast to make sure there are no abnormal growths. Next, stand up and repeat. You can lift your arm to change how the tissue is laying to get a more in-depth exam.
If you notice any changes in how your breasts look or feel, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Know Your Risk

 There are some risk factors for breast cancer that you cannot change such as age, family history, reproductive history, or the density of your breasts. If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer, or any cancer, you should be particularly sure of being up to date on your exams.
Protective measures to lower your risk of breast cancer include staying active, maintaining a healthy weight and well-balanced diet, minimizing alcohol consumption, and paying particular attention if taking prescription hormones. Breast cancer is very real, and knowledge gives you the power to decrease your risk.

The Bottom Line

You should keep up with your annual mammograms, as they are the most accurate exam for finding precancerous cells in breast tissue. In the meantime, conduct self-examinations just in case – While by no means accurate, it takes just a few minutes and it’s pain free. Also get familiar with how your healthy breasts look and feel to ensure that you catch any abnormalities.
If you would like to talk to a medical professional about your risk of breast cancer, schedule an appointmentwith us. The Breast Center at MIIS is dedicated to helping women mitigate their risk. Dr. Gunn and our entire team strive to provide a comprehensive, personalized experience whether you come to us for periodic diagnostics or for treatment.