3 Quick tips for checking ‘the girls’.
As I am preparing for my mammogram, an annual occurrence since I turned 50, I began to wonder how many of my friends do a breast self-exam every month? Do you, or is it something you think about, but never get around to doing?
Two of my friends who have a direct family history, mother, aunt, sister or grandma, said they are fairly consistent most of the time about checking. A few others check every few months, while my younger friends didn’t really seem too concerned about doing it more than once or twice a year. They seemed to think that it’s an more of an issue for women over 40. It’s time to re-think that attitude as cancer doesn’t discriminate by age.
One of my friends actually commented that she doesn’t check too often, because she is terrified that she might find something! Counterintuitive as that may sound, I must say, I have had that same thought on occasion. How about you? Do you avoid checking the girls because you are afraid you might find something that you just don’t want to deal with?
I am the first to admit that there seems to be a great deal of conflicting information about the importance of breast self-exam and yearly mammograms. However, it seems that a breast self exam, which really only takes a few minutes, truly supports the idea that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. I am willing to invest a few minutes each month, just to make sure I know how the girls are doing. How about you? Just a few minutes each day or week to make sure that all is in order with ‘the girls’.
Did you know that according to Nationalbreastcancer.org,
- 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump in their breast
- Mammograms can help detect cancer before you feel a lump, but a breast self exam can help you be familiar with how your breasts look and feel. Any changes you notice during your monthly check can be reported to your doctor immediately.
Knowing the above information, here are 3 quick tips for checking the girls.
- Before you jump in the shower, stand in front of the mirror with your arms at your side. Take a good look at them, and then raise your arms and reach for the ceiling. What you are looking for are any changes in the contour, any swelling or dimpling of the skin and/or any changes in the nipples, particularly on one side. By doing it twice a week, you will become very familiar with how they look through the month, in case you are dealing with any hormonal changes, such as swelling. If you do this twice a week, it will take less than 30 seconds and you get to score points because you are pro-actively taking care of you!
- Once you are in the shower, using the pads of your fingers, move your fingers around your breast in a circular motion, moving from the outside to the inside of your breast. Be sure to check your armpit area for lumps and bumps as well. Again, this really doesn’t take too long, so if you can do this once a week, make it a habit to do it on the same day each week, you get to score another point for taking care of you!
- Finally, lying down is the traditional way that many of us were taught to check our breasts. Lying on your back allows the breast tissue to spread out over the chest wall, so you will feel a slightly different area than when you are standing in the shower. This does require a few extra minutes in your routine to check on the health and well being of the girls, but you are worth it, so take the time!
- To check your right breast, put a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, use small circular motions to check the entire area, including your armpit.
- Once you are done with the right side, be sure to check the left side too.
Keep in mind that breast cancer is not just a woman’s disease. If you have a man in your life, you can get him to do these checks as well. As moms, we also owe it to our daughters to have an open discussion about taking the time to learn how to check ‘the girls’.
Let’s be honest, doing all 3 of these exams takes less than 10 minutes, once a month. No more excuses, you are worth it!
Let’s keep taking care of ourselves!
Till next week,