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The Importance of Breast Self-Exams

Breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer that affects women. (Skin cancers are the most common.) Women in the United States have about a 13% chance of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives.

The earlier breast cancer is found, the more treatable it is. That's why every woman should follow early detection guidelines that include breast self-exams and mammograms.

To help you feel more at ease doing breast self-exams, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist our team of medical providers at Westover Hills Women’s Health share this helpful information about why breast-self exams are important and how to do them.

About breast self-exams

During a breast self-exam, you check your own breasts for changes that could suggest a breast health issue. These are best done monthly several days after the end of your menstrual cycle.

Changes in your breasts don't necessarily mean you have breast cancer. But they may need an evaluation by a medical provider. If you notice any changes, lumps, pain, or other irregularities, call us for an evaluation.

How to do a breast self-exam

Breastcancer.org, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing breast cancer information to all women, recommends the following steps for a breast self-exam:

Look in the mirror

Check for changes in breast size, shape, and color. Be aware of swelling, redness, or puckering of the skin. Observe your breasts with your arms by your side, and then with your arms over your head.

Check your nipples

Look for alterations in the color, size, or appearance of the nipples, as well as any discharge from your nipples.

Lie down and feel your breasts

Lie on your back and feel your breasts, running your fingers along your breasts in a circular pattern, starting with your nipples. Be sure to feel your entire breast, including the area around the breasts and in your armpit. Notice also if you feel pain, tenderness, or discomfort.

As you examine your breasts, look for lumps, thickening of breast tissue, and other irregularities. Keep in mind that not all breast lumps are cancerous, but if it is a new lump or larger than you had previously noticed consider having a your medical provider check as well.

Stand up and feel your breasts

With your opposite arm raised, use the same circular motion to feel each of your breasts while standing up. You may want to do this in the shower.

Repeat regularly

Plan on doing a breast self-exam every month. The best time to do it is a few days after the end of your menstrual period, when your breasts are least likely to feel sore.

Take control of your breast health

Dr. Al-Hakeem and our team at Westover Hills Women’s Health make breast health a priority for our patients. In addition to advising you on breast self-exams, we perform breast exams during your yearly well-woman checkups and schedule mammograms for you as needed.

We invite you to make an appointment for a yearly exam or an evaluation for a breast concern. To schedule a visit at one of our two San Antonio, Texas, offices, call us today or use our online tool.

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