Even though October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, BJC Medical Group believes that breast health is important all year round. Sarah McKee, FNP, gives her top 5 tips for breast health.
When should I do a breast self-exam? You should do monthly self-breast exams. If you have a monthly cycle it should be done the week after your menses. If you do not have a regular menstrual cycle or you are post-menopausal, you should pick the same day every month to perform the exam. Shower time is easiest when your hands are soapy.
What should I look for?
Skin changes in your breasts (dimpling, orange like appearance, discoloration, pulled in area)
Lumps or bumps that are hard (like a rock not rubbery like a bouncy ball) that is in one breast and not in the other
A lump that is hard and doesn’t move back and forth between your fingers
Nipple goes inward, and it wasn’t previously this way
Nipple discharge (fluid)
Where exactly should I do the self-exam? When you do your monthly breast exam, make sure and check the area above the breast, up close to the shoulder bone, as well as, the armpit for lumps. The upper outer quadrant of the breast is the most likely place for breast cancer to start.
Why do I also need a mammogram? Mammogram can pick up very small lumps, whereas, we as humans can only feel about pea size lumps or larger. That reason alone is why mammograms are so important for women over the age of forty. For the younger patients, with a first degree relative (mother, sister) with breast cancer, we start mammograms at forty or 5 years prior to onset age of the effected relative, whichever comes first.
How often do I need a mammogram? We recommend a clinical breast exam for every woman yearly regardless of age.
Consult with your primary care physician for more information about breast health exams.