Your breasts change along with the rest of your body as you enter your 30s, 40s, and 50s. From breast feeding to menopause and breast cancer risks, here’s a guide to your breasts.
Breast Self Exams
Beginning in their 20s, women should start performing breast self exams. Your chances of surviving breast cancer are much higher when detected early on. Since you only see your OB/GYN for regular scheduled visits once a year, it is recommended to perform your own breast self exams every month. Here are steps to performing a proper self exam as recommended by the National Breast Cancer Foundation:
IN THE SHOWER
- Raise the arm next to the breast you are checking over your head.
- Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area.
- Check both breasts each month feeling for any lumps, thickening, or hardened knot.
- Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
IN FRONT OF A MIRROR
- Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides.
- Next, raise your arms high overhead.
- Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples.
- Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles.
- Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
- When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall.
- Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head.
- Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
- Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps.
- Repeat these steps for your left breast.
During your regular scheduled visit to your OB/GYN you will receive a clinical breast exam. Using the pads of the fingers, your provider will check your entire breast, underarm, and collarbone area for any lumps or abnormalities. If a lump is discovered, your provider will note its size, shape, and texture. He or she will also check to see if the lump moves easily. Benign lumps often feel different from cancerous ones, but any lump found will likely need to be examined with further testing.
Unless you detect a lump or abnormality in your breast tissue sooner, you most likely won’t have a mammogram until you reach your 40s. Once you reach 40 however, it is recommended that you receive yearly mammograms to help reduce your risk of undetected breast cancer. A mammogram is an x-ray image of your breast. It helps detect any abnormalities and/or masses in your breast tissue. Mammograms can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease as well.
Southwest Health is proud to be the first in Southwest Wisconsin to offer lifesaving 3D Digital Mammography services. Click here to learn more.