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The Importance of Breast Self-Examination

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

Did you know that approximately 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump? I myself have five friends who found their cancerous tumors through self-examination.

Aside from self-examination, most women over the age of 40 are familiar with mammograms and many of them have experienced an influx of phone calls over the last couple of months notifying them that they are due for their yearly exam likely driven by medical office closures and reduced appointment capacity due to COVID-19.

If that sounds like your recent experience, please don’t panic! The biggest misconception about mammography is that it picks up every breast cancer. The truth is, mammography misses at least 10% of breast cancer and research has shown that mammograms are excellent at picking up on slow-moving cancers that likely aren't a threat—ones that may never need to be treated at all, or that are so slow-moving that you would have eventually noticed a lump while dressing or showering and ultimately had the same treatment and prognosis as if you'd discovered it earlier via mammogram.

The best thing that you can do for your breast health is pretty simple – get to know your breasts! The upper, outer area, near your armpit, tends to have the most lumps and bumps. The lower half can feel like a pebbly beach. The area under the nipple can feel like a collection of large grains of rice. Another part might feel like a lumpy bowl of oatmeal.

If you do feel a lump, remember that most women have lumpy breasts – and most are benign (non-cancerous). Hormone changes, injury, and lymphatic congestion are all possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps. If you do notice a lump or breast change, it’s time to call your primary care doctor or your gynecologist to discuss in more detail.

Here are some key changes that should be brought to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin

  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)

  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling

Here at our Medical Thermography office, we believe that breast self-examination is a useful and important screening tool, especially when used in combination with regular physical exams by your doctor, thermograms, ultrasounds, and/or MRIs. Each of these screening tools works differently and has strengths and weaknesses.

Doing a breast self-exam is convenient and needs to be done regularly beginning at 18-20 years old. We also recommend beginning thermography screening at this age - knowing your thermal fingerprint is key to optimal health.

Safeguard your wellbeing and take five minutes each month to check your breasts in addition to using the other screening tools. If you are unsure how to correctly perform a breast self-exam, call our office and make an appointment. We’ll teach you how to do a self-exam using a cool pebble and rice-filled implant. Call Functional Wellness & Imaging at (330) 948-3488.

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