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How Often Should You Check Your Breasts?

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Why you should still do breast self-exams and what to look for when you do

Posted by Temple Health

Over the years, there has been debate over whether breast self-exams help detect cancer early and increase the chance of survival. Because studies have raised uncertainty about the value of this exam, the American Cancer Society no longer recommends breast self-exams as a screening tool. However, the organization still suggests that women become familiar with how their breasts usually look and feel so they can report any changes to their physician.

While the recommendations may have changed, Temple primary care providers suggest that women continue to perform self-exams and maintain regular physical exams to catch the early signs of abnormalities or irregularities with their breasts. Our providers believe that the sooner we can detect and diagnose any signs of cancer, the better your chance of a good outcome.

A monthly breast self-exam is a simple, non-invasive examination you can do right in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Your doctor can show you how to do a breast self-examination properly. It can feel awkward at first, but once you get in the habit of examining your breasts regularly, you may be able to detect small changes. Although you shouldn’t panic if you think you feel a lump (only about 20% of suspicious lumps are cancer), any changes you find should be reported to your doctor as soon as possible.

Monthly Breast Self-Exam Tips:

  • Examine your breasts at the same time every month. Doing it several days after your period is best so your breasts are not tender or swollen. Pick a day that’s easy to remember if you no longer have periods.
  • Identify your personal preferences. Perform breast self-exams in the shower, in front of a mirror, or lying down.
  • Report any changes you notice to your doctor. This includes lumps, swelling, dimpling, nipple pain or retraction, redness, scaliness, a thickening of the skin, or a discharge from the nipple.

If you have noticed a lump or changes in your breast or are concerned about your breast health, schedule your mammogram today.

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