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Breast Cancer Awareness: Empowering Lives Through Self-Exams and Regular Check-ups

Nov 15, 2023

Breast cancer awareness is not just a campaign; it's a call to action that has saved countless lives by empowering individuals to take charge of their health. Knowledge is power in the battle against this formidable disease, and early detection remains the strongest ally. Understanding the significance of self-exams, regular check-ups and professional mammograms can mean the difference between timely intervention and more advanced stages of breast cancer.

The Power of Self-Exams: A First Line of Defense

Breast self-exams are fundamental in maintaining breast health and detecting potential issues early. Carving out a few minutes each month for self-examination can be lifesaving.

"Breast self-exams help individuals become more familiar with their bodies, enabling them to notice changes and promptly seek medical attention if anything unusual is detected," said Nandini Kulkarni, M.D., a fellowship-trained, double board certified, surgical oncologist and Medical Director of Surgical Oncology for Inspira Health. These changes might include lumps, skin texture alterations or nipple discharge.

Mastering the Self-Exam: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Pick a regular time: To minimize breast tenderness, choose a time of the month ideally a few days after your menstrual period.
  2. Visual inspection: Stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your side. Look for any changes in size, shape or skin texture.
  3. Raise your arms: Repeat the visual inspection with your arms raised overhead.
  4. Examine while lying down: Lie down and use your opposite hand to examine each breast. Use a circular motion, covering the entire breast from the collarbone to the bra line.
  5. Check nipples: Look for any change in symmetry or distortion of the shape of the nipple, recent inversion of the nipple or spontaneous discharge.
  6. Feel for lumps: Use the pads of your fingers to feel for lumps or thickening. Start from the outer areas and move towards the nipple.
  7. Repeat on the other side: Perform the same steps on your other breast.

Remember, consistency is critical. If you notice anything unusual, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Taking Action: What If You Detect Something Unusual?

Discovering a lump or any unusual change during self-exams might lead to anxiety, but taking proactive steps is essential.

"Don't panic; not all lumps are cancerous," said Dr. Kulkarni.

First, consult your health care provider to discuss your findings. They may recommend additional tests like additional mammographic views, ultrasounds or biopsies to determine the nature of the lump. Early detection and intervention enhance the chances of successful treatment.

Partnering with Professionals: Regular Check-ups and Mammograms

While self-exams are crucial, they're just one piece of the puzzle. Regular visits to a health care professional and scheduling mammograms are equally vital. “Clinical breast exams by a medical expert can catch nuances that might not be obvious during a self-exam,” said Dr. Kulkarni. “Furthermore, mammograms can detect tiny abnormalities long before they're palpable."

Mammograms are X-ray images of the breasts and are a cornerstone of breast cancer screening. Experts recommend that women over 40 years old get mammograms annually. However, the frequency and timing may vary based on individual risk factors.

“Mammograms are a tool for early detection and a means to track changes over time. Consistency in screening is key,” said Dr. Kulkarni.

AMI at Inspira offers 3D mammography services. Schedule your appointment today.

Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.

Topics: Mammogram, Cancer Care