Self-Breast Exam Tips

pink ribbon that represents breast cancer awareness monthYou may have heard there are many advantages of performing breast self-examinations. Women sometimes detect lumps that prompt their physicians to send them for mammograms, which can uncover signs of breast cancer.

You should also perform breast self-exams for other reasons. Breast exams help you become familiar with your breasts so you can report any changes in them to your physician. Most changes are benign, but occasionally there is a more serious reason for them.

If you have never self-examined your breasts, you may be unsure how to begin. Follow these exam tips to give yourself an effective breast self-exam.

Tips for Breast Self-Exams

Here are a few ways you can learn to do your examinations quickly, thoroughly and effectively:

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to show you how to do it: Talk to them about what they recommend for their patients and to explain what you should be looking for. While online guides can be helpful, speaking to a breast specialist is a great way to ensure effective examination.
  • Time your exams to your menstrual cycle: Choose a time of the month when your breasts are less tender. Many women do this during the week after their period. If you examine your breasts at the same time every month it’ll be easier to detect breast lumps or breast changes.
  • Look in the mirror before you start: Begin by examining your breasts to get a feel for what they look like. Search for dimpling and puckering, and note the shape and size of the breasts. Examine them with your hands raised as well and look beneath each breast to judge their symmetry. This will help you identify changes in the future.
  • Do the physical exam standing up or in the shower: The tissue thins out when you lay down. You will also find soaping your fingers helps in the shower.
  • Use the pads of your three middle fingers: Apply different levels of pressure and do it in a constant pattern to assure you do not miss any parts. For instance, you might do it circularly along with light pressure.

Women with disabilities that make it difficult to do any of this should ask their doctor for tips on how to proceed.

What Are Normal Lumps in the Breast?

All breasts have lumps. You will become familiar with these as you perform your exams regularly. Most lumps are normal and do not require a trip to the doctor. Abnormalities in the breast may include very hard lumps near your underarm, and you should inform your physician immediately.

Other changes you should notify your doctor about include:

  • Sores or rashes on the breast
  • Newly inverted nipples, pointing in rather than out
  • Swelling or pain in the breast
  • Any irregular breast tissue

When to Start Self-Breast Exams

Doctors generally recommend that women begin performing self-breast exams in their early 20s. Teenage girls’ breasts are still growing, and they change a lot during this process. It’s also extremely rare for a young girl to develop breast cancer. For those reasons, physicians say it is unnecessary to perform self-exams until you get older and your body has finished going through changes.

Still not sure how to perform a self-breast exam or want some extra guidance? Hamilton Health offers patient-centered health care at our state-of-the-art facility. Make an appointment with us today to discuss your breast health and breast condition.

More Resources for Women

What are the first steps in Detecting Colon Cancer?

Detecting Colon Cancer Before it Spreads

Detecting colon cancer early is crucial because it is a highly prevalent and potentially deadly form of cancer. The colon, also known as the large intestine, is responsible for processing and eliminating waste from the body. If cancer cells form in the colon, they can grow and spread to other parts of the body, leading to severe health consequences and even death.

The early stages of colon cancer often have no noticeable symptoms, which is why regular screening is critical. When colon cancer is detected early, it is much more treatable and has a higher chance of being cured. Colon cancer screening tests, such as colonoscopies, can detect precancerous growths (polyps) before they turn into cancer or identify cancer in its early stages.

One in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It is the third most common diagnosed cancer in both men and women. Most cases appear in people 50 years or older, however cases among younger adults in America are dramatically increasing. With early screening 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented. As you age you become more at risk that’s why it’s important to be continually screened.

Hamilton Health Center offers several ways to screen for colorectal cancer, including the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and the newer Cologuard Stool DNA screening. These screening methods differ and should be seen as the first step in testing for colon cancer. A positive result from either method should be followed up with a colonoscopy, which is procedure that examines the large intestine using medical equipment and a camera that records the process so that the doctor can identify and remove abnormal growths (polyps) that are found.

The FIT Test

Blood in your stool can often go unnoticed. The FIT test detects hidden blood which is an early sign of cancer. That means you can treat it before it spreads further.

The FIT test is a relatively simple process you can do on your own in the privacy of your home.

Steps to Check For Colon Cancer with FIT Test

  • Flush the toilet before use
  • Place the used toilet paper in the waste bag provided do not put it in the toilet
  • Use the brush from the kit and scrape the surface of the stool
  • Wipe the brush gently on the space indicated on the test card
  • Add the brush to the waste bag
  • Throw it away then simply mail the used kit to the lab to be tested

Upon completion of the FIT test, your provider at Hamilton will contact you with the results.

Cologuard® Testing

In addition to the FIT test, Hamilton also uses the FDA approved Cologuard test, which is a noninvasive screening test used to detect colon cancer and precancerous polyps. DNA testing for colon cancer detection is on the rise because of the accurate findings. This test is approved by the FDA and is recommended for people aged 50 and older who are at average risk for colon cancer.

Cologuard tests work by detecting DNA and blood biomarkers in a stool sample. The sample is collected using a kit that is sent to the patient’s home. The kit includes a collection container, a preservative, and a mailing container. The patient collects a stool sample and sends it back to the lab for analysis.
The Cologuard test analyzes the DNA in the stool sample for the presence of abnormal cells that may indicate colon cancer. It also tests for the presence of blood, which may also be a sign of colon cancer or polyps.

If the test results are positive, it does not necessarily mean that the patient has colon cancer. A positive result means that further testing, such as a colonoscopy, is needed to confirm the diagnosis. If the test results are negative, it does not completely rule out the possibility of colon cancer, but it does indicate that further testing is not necessary at that time.

Colon cancer screening tests are a convenient and noninvasive option for detecting colon cancer. It is important to note that this test is not a substitute for regular colonoscopies, which are the gold standard for detecting colon cancer and polyps. However, it can be a useful tool in detecting colon cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable.

Be one of the 1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the US. Use the FIT test to detect symptoms early when it’s most curable.

Hamilton Health Center wants to make sure all of our patients are cancer-free. Contact your provider today to learn more about colon cancer screenings.