Breast cancer develops over the course of months or even years. That's why it's important to do a self-examination monthly. If you find a lump in your breast, in your armpit or above the collarbone that does not go away on its own in two weeks or so, experience discharging from the nipple, observe skin changes in the breast or notice a nipple inversion, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Perform a Self-Exam
You should conduct a self-examination of your breasts monthly using the following steps.
Step 1 - In the shower
With your fingers flat, gently move across every part of your breast. Use the right hand to check the left breast and vice versa. Check for lumps, hard knots or thickening. Note any changes that have occurred in your breast since the last time you examined them.
Step 2 - In front of the mirror
Place your arms at your sides and look at each breast. Then raise your arms over your head. See if there is any difference in the breast contours such as a swelling, dimpling or changes in the way your nipples look. Rest your palms on your hip and press down firmly. Note any changes. Don't worry if your breasts are different sizes; this is normal for women.
Step 3 - Laying Down
Put a pillow under your right shoulder, placing your arm behind your head. With the left hand fingers flattened, press on your right breast in small circular motions, covering the entire breast. Change the pressure you use on your breast as you perform your exam. Finally, squeeze your nipple to check for any discharge and check the other breast using the same process.
Certain risk factors can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. This includes:
- Age: Women over 65 account for half of all incidences of breast cancer.
- Weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of breast cancer by 20%.
- Lifestyle: Having a diet that is high in saturated fat, living a sedentary lifestyle or having more than two drinks a day.
- Family History: Having a sibling or mother with a personal history of breast cancer can increase your risk, as can having previous incidences of benign breast disease.
- Other Factors: Very dense breast tissue and a history of hormone treatments can increase your risks.
See Your Doctor
If you feel embarrassed discussing issues with your breasts, don't be. At Florida Hospital Celebration Health, we want you to feel completely comfortable discussing your concerns with us. This includes telling us about your family history, talking about your issues and asking your doctor whether you are doing your self-examinations correctly.
In the battle against breast cancer, it's vital that you speak openly with your doctor about any symptoms you may have or any changes you've noticed in your breasts. This may cause your doctor to do a more in-depth study, such as ordering a mammogram or conducting other diagnostics.
A mammogram is an effective way to detect a lump or tumor, especially if you have thick breast tissue. Our team is very experienced in performing mammograms, ensuring that your examination will be as stress free and as comfortable as possible.
We also offer digital mammography, which allows us to capture highly detailed images. Not only are the images clearer, but the imaging time is greatly reduced as is the level of radiation you receive - far less than that of a conventional x-ray mammogram.
With early detection and effective intervention, you have an excellent chance of beating breast cancer. Reducing your risk factors can also help you reduce the likelihood that you could be diagnosed with breast cancer.
If you have a question about how to conduct a self-examination or have discovered a change in your breast during an exam, contact our clinical care coordinator.