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.

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Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers

baby being breast fed by motherNew mothers have so much to learn. You love your baby and want to take care of them, but all the information out there can be confusing. Many mothers want to breastfeed their babies to give them good nutrition and bond with them. These breastfeeding tips and tricks for first-time mothers will help you and your baby stay happy and healthy.

Begin Breastfeeding as Soon as Possible

If you can, try to breastfeed your baby right after birth. During the first hour after birth, babies are more interested in breastfeeding than usual. Cuddle your baby on your chest until they finish feeding. You create colostrum, the first kind of breast milk, at the beginning of your baby’s life. Breastfeeding early lets your baby get more of this nutritious milk. The skin-to-skin touch will also reduce your and your baby’s stress after delivery.

Let Your Baby Tell You When They’re Hungry

Babies show their hunger in many ways besides crying. They have a rooting reflex, where they turn towards touch and open their mouths when hungry. Your baby may also start sucking and licking their lips. Every baby has unique feeding times, and they will show these signs when they want to feed. Some babies want to feed a little bit many times a day, while other babies like a few long feedings. As your baby grows, they will have growth spurts where they want to feed more often.

Make Sure Your Little One Latches the Right Way

Correct latching makes breastfeeding less painful and helps your baby get more nutrition. Latching is the way that your baby sucks on your breast. When your baby breastfeeds, they should not hurt your nipple. They should suck on both your nipple and the areola, the darker skin around your nipple. Bring your baby to your full breast, and gently move their lips if they need help.

Wait for Pacifier Time

Your baby has a natural need for sucking that encourages them to breastfeed. A pacifier helps them suck often and feel happy. However, if they get in the habit of sucking on a pacifier instead of your breast, they might not want to breastfeed. Let them build a habit of breastfeeding for a few weeks before giving them a pacifier.

Take Care of Yourself

Your health is as important as your baby’s health. Remember to get enough sleep and to eat a healthy diet. Ask for help with chores and other tasks when you first start taking care of your little one. If your nipples get dry and cracked, try rubbing a few drops of breast milk on them after a feeding. You can also use a cream that has lanolin in it to prevent cracking.

Let Us Help You Have a Healthy Start

At Hamilton Health Center, we want to help all first-time mothers and babies stay healthy. We give care to everyone, even if you have a low income or don’t speak English as your first language. Schedule an appointment with us by calling (717) 232-9971 today.

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Important Reasons to Visit the OBGYN

Reasons to Visit a Gynecologist

It is important for anyone who has a uterus to see a gynecologist or obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) at regular intervals throughout their life. Whether or not you plan on having children, gynecologists and OB/GYNs provide essential women’s health services. In what follows, we will answer the question “What is an OBGYN?” and give reasons why it is important to visit a gynecologist. 

What Is an OBGYN?

reasons to visit an OBGYNA gynecologist or OB/GYN is a doctor that specializes in women’s reproductive health. While not all gynecologists are OB/GYNs, all OB/GYNs are gynecologists. As such, OBGYNs are expertly trained and experienced to provide pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum care in addition to general care for the female reproductive system. Their expertise includes delivering new babies and routine screenings like pap smears.

What Can Gynecologists Do for You?

When you visit our gynecologists, they will:

  • Help you to understand the way your reproductive system works.
  • Teach you what a normal vaginal discharge should be and how to tell if there’s a problem.
  • Teach you what to do to protect yourself when you have sex.

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7 Reasons to Visit a Gynecologist

If you’re unsure if you should see a gynecologist or are wondering how you can find an affordable OBGYN clinic in your area, consider these seven reasons why visiting a gynecologist is beneficial:

1. To Test for STDs

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are caused by different types of viral or bacterial infections that germinate and grow in the infected person’s genitals. Consequently, you can acquire or pass on STDs through sexual intercourse or by putting your hand, mouth or genitals on an infected person’s semen, vaginal fluid, blood or genitals. Your gynecologist can test for STDs through blood samples, urine samples or tissue swabs. Common STD symptoms include itching, pain, abnormal or smelly discharge or sores.

2. To Find Out If You Are Pregnant

If you’ve been sexually active and your period has suddenly stopped, you should go to your OBGYN. Additionally, if you suspect you are pregnant or have a positive at-home test result, it’s a good idea to visit your OBGYN quickly.

3. To Learn About Birth Control and Fertility

Once you become sexually active, you should take steps to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Your gynecologist will be happy to discuss your options with you. They’ll show you various birth control techniques and show you how to use them properly.

Additionally, they can offer guidance on your menstrual cycle and ovulation in the event you and your partner want to get pregnant.

4. To Discuss Menstrual Problems

If you notice that your menstrual cycle has suddenly become irregular, if you bleed for a long time, or some months pass without seeing your period, you need to visit your gynecologist immediately. Ignoring such symptoms may lead to serious reproductive issues in the future.

5. To Have a Breast Exam

Gynecologists can help you conduct a thorough breast exam to check for lumps, which can be an indication of cancer. Breast exams are particularly important when you’re over 40, but you may need to do them more often if you have a history of breast cancer cases in your family. 

6. To Get a Pap Smear and Pelvic Exam

It’s quite important to get a pelvic exam if you’re at the age of 21 or older. Pelvic exams are particularly necessary when you have pelvic pain, delayed childbearing, strange vaginal discharge and menstrual disorders. During a pap smear, your doctor takes samples from your cervix to test for any abnormalities or viruses. Going for a pap smear can help you reduce the risk of cancer and many other health problems.

7. For Checkups After Sex

Should you visit your OBGYN after every time you have sexual intercourse? No. But you should visit your gynecologist for sexually related issues, especially when you notice that sex is very painful, you miss your period after sex or you discover strange symptoms on your genitals. Most sexually related problems can be treated effectively when you respond quickly.

Frequent Questions About Visiting a Gynecologist

The following are some frequent questions many people have about visiting the gynecologist:

Can You See a Gynecologist On Your Period?

You can still see a gynecologist when you are on your period. However, your gynecologist may recommend rescheduling if you have a pap smear or pelvic exam scheduled while you are on your period, particularly if you are bleeding heavily, as blood can impact the lab test results.

At the same time, you can certainly see your OB/GYN while you are on your period for any other gynecological question or concern you have. You should especially make an appointment with your gynecologist if you are experiencing period-related issues during your menstrual cycle. 

How Often Do You Need a Gynecological Exam?

The experts are not unanimous on how often you need a gynecological exam. The American College of Physicians (ACP) suggests that women aged 21 and older who are neither pregnant nor at risk of pelvic disease have a pelvic exam every three years. In contrast, some doctors may recommend an annual pelvic exam for women over 21 years old, especially if certain risk factors are present. 

Women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have cervical cancer screening with a pap smear every three to five years. After you reach the age of 65, your risk for cervical cancer decreases.

Do I Need to Prepare Before Seeing an OBGYN?

For a routine OBGYN appointment, there is not much you need to prepare. It may be helpful to compile a list of questions or concerns you want to address with your OBGYN so you can make the most of your appointment. Also, be sure the office has your medical records and any insurance information to streamline your visit.

Some things, however, you may want to hold off on, including:

  • Bikini waxing
  • Douching
  • Intercourse the night before your exam

Your provider can give you more specific information about preparing for other appointments, such as a pap smear, ultrasound or other procedure.

At What Age Should a Girl First See an OBGYN?

Your first gynecologist appointment should be between 13 and 15 years old. While it is normal to feel nervous about your first OBGYN appointment, it will most likely involve a discussion between you and your doctor. Topics of discussion may include:

  • Your general health
  • Your family’s medical history
  • Your menstrual cycle
  • Guidance on safe sex practices

Let your doctor know if you would like the discussion to remain confidential. In addition to this discussion, your doctor may also perform a general physical exam to check your overall health. They may also conduct an external genital exam, which consists of a visual examination of the vulva.

Come to Hamilton Healthcare for Gynecological Care!

We proudly offer specialized services to care for all women’s reproductive and family health issues at Hamilton Healthcare! Our services include annual exams, birth control prescriptions, prevention of STDs and family planning services. We invite you to call us at (717) 232-9971 to book an appointment with our gynecologist today.

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