Why it is necessary for Women to be self-aware and do self-breast examinations regularly?

Why it is necessary for Women to be self-aware and do self-breast examinations regularly?

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A breast self-exam is a private examination of your breasts for breast awareness. You can use your hands and eyes to check if your breasts' appearance and texture have changed in order to better understand your breasts. Discuss any new breast changes you find with your doctor. While the majority of breast changes found during a breast awareness self-exam have benign origins, certain changes could indicate something more serious, like breast cancer. Doctors think it's important for women to be comfortable with their own breasts so they know what's typical and can quickly report changes.

Importance and Need of self-breast exam

You can find changes that could be symptoms of infection or breast cancer by performing monthly breast self-exams such as breast lumps or something that feels different. Early detection of breast cancer greatly improves survival rates. Examining oneself is crucial for breast health. However, they shouldn't take the place of the examinations and screening tests (like mammograms) advised by doctors. You ought to continue visiting your gynecologist and/or primary care physician frequently.

You can learn more about the typical feel and appearance of your breasts by performing a breast self-exam for awareness. You should let your doctor know if you detect any changes in your breasts that seem abnormal or if one breast differs from the other. Your breasts might change as a result of a variety of illnesses, including breast cancer. Many women say that the first indicator of their breast cancer was a new breast lump they independently discovered, despite the fact that the breast self-exam approach isn't usually a reliable means to detect breast cancer. Doctors advise becoming familiar with your breasts' typical consistency as a result.

Important things to keep in mind 

Research properly. Ask your doctor to demonstrate, you might find it beneficial to go through the directions and procedure with your doctor before you start performing breast self-exams for breast awareness.

Choose the point in your cycle when your breasts are least painful if you menstruate. Each month throughout your menstrual cycle, your hormone levels alter, which affects the breast tissue. When your period starts, swelling starts to go down. The week following the end of your menstruation is usually the best time to conduct a self-exam for breast awareness.

Risks and limitations of self-breast examination

Self-examination of breasts is the best way to know your body and figure out any early signs of lumps or cysts but it can come with its own limitations and shortcomings.

Overestimating the benefits of self-examination. Screening mammography or a clinical breast check by your doctor is still preferable to a breast self-exam. Knowing how your breasts normally feel and appear can complement but not replace breast cancer screening.

Anxiety brought on by discovering a lump. The majority of alterations or lumps that women discover in their breasts are not malignant. But you might be worried if you discover something odd in your breast. Before you can see your doctor, you can experience days or even weeks of anxiety.

Examining lumps or changes may require further testing and procedures. Diagnostic mammography, breast ultrasound, or a treatment to remove breast tissue for evaluation may be necessary if you find a suspicious lump (biopsy). If it turns out that the lump was benign (noncancerous), you can feel as though you went through an invasive operation that wasn't necessary.

How to perform self-breast examination

There are 3 major steps to follow to perform a self-breast exam for self-awareness. Following these steps properly might give you the best results. 

Visual inspection

Stand in front of a mirror without your shirt or bra on. Your arms should be at your sides. Keep an eye out for any changes to the nipples, dimpling in the skin, breast swelling, or breast shape. Next, extend your arms wide in front of you while searching for the same things. Finally, press forcefully with your hands on your hips to get your chest muscles to contract. With your hands clasped together and your arms raised over your head, examine your breasts. Check the ridges along the bottom of your breasts by lifting them. Recheck for the same modifications. Don't forget to examine both breasts.

Ask a family member or trusted friend to assist you if your vision issue prevents you from visually examining your breasts.

Manual examination whilst standing up

With your shirt and bra off, check your left breast with your right hand, then the right. Press on each area of one breast using the pads of your three middle fingers. Apply gentle pressure first, then medium, and finally firm. Check your body for any lumps, thick areas, or other changes. You may ensure that you hit every target by using a circular pattern. Next, firmly press the tissue against the arm. Before gently squeezing the nipple to check for discharge, make sure to look under the areola. The mismatch between the two breasts is normal. Watch for indications of deflation, puckering, or puckering on just one side. On the opposite side of your body, repeat the procedures.

Manual examination while lying down

Your breast tissue distributes more uniformly while you're lying down. Pick a level surface, such as a bed, and lie on your back there. Breast tissue spreads out when you're lying down, making it thinner and more perceptible. So if your breasts are big, this is an excellent posture to feel for changes. Place a pillow beneath your right shoulder when lying down. Your right arm should be behind your head. Apply the same method as in step 2 with your left hand, pressing all areas of the breast tissue and under your arm with the pads of your fingers. Last but not least, flip the pillow to the opposite side and examine the opposite breast and armpit. Before gently squeezing the nipple to check for discharge, make sure to look under the areola. 

Many females choose to perform these steps in the shower because they discover that it is easiest to feel their breasts when their skin is moist and slick. Using the same hand motions, completely cover your breasts and follow these steps while you are in the shower. Pick and choose the method that works best for you.

General points to note while performing a breast exam

Some general guidelines to bear in mind when inspecting your breasts are as follows:

  • Make use of your finger pads. For the exam, use the pads, not the very tips of your three middle fingers. Use a more sensitive area of your hands, such as the palm or the backs of your fingers, if you have trouble feeling with your finger pads.
  • Utilize various pressure levels. You ought should be able to feel the breast tissue at various depths by applying various pressures. To feel the tissue that is closest to the skin, apply light pressure; to feel a bit deeper, apply medium pressure; and to feel the tissue that is closest to the chest and ribs, apply strong pressure. Use each pressure level before proceeding to the following area. If you're unclear about how hard to press, speak with your doctor or a nurse.
  • Give it some time. Do not hurry.  It might take some time to examine your breasts in detail.
  • Observe a pattern. Make sure to thoroughly inspect your breast by employing a logical approach. Think about covering your breasts with a clock face or pie pieces, for example. Move your fingers toward your nipple while starting close to your collarbone and examining that region. Next, move your fingers to the following area.

When to contact your gynecologist?

Do not panic if you think you have a lump in your breast. The majority of lumps or lumpy areas that most women experience in their breasts are benign. A benign breast condition, an injury, or normal hormonal swings are just a few possible causes of non-cancerous breast tumors.

If you see any of the following, you should still contact your doctor:

  • Changes to the breast's appearance, sensation, or size.
  • the nipple's appearance or sensation changing.
  • Skin that is dimpling or puckering.
  • a mass, a tough knot, or a thick area within the breast tissue.
  • Blunt discharge
  • tugging inward at the nipple or elsewhere.
  • persistent pain in a single location.
  • On the nipple, a rash.
  • breast swelling, either in one or both.
  • Skin warmth, redness, or dark patches.

Know what to anticipate. Your doctor might request breast imaging tests in addition to taking a medical history, performing a physical exam, and evaluating a breast lump during a visit. When a woman under 30 or who is pregnant or in nursing needs to have a lump evaluated, ultrasound is frequently the first or only imaging test utilized. For women over 30 who are not pregnant or nursing and have a lump, a mammogram and an ultrasound are often advised. Your doctor might advise additional imaging with an MRI, MBI (molecular breast imaging), a biopsy, or any variety of these tests if more testing is required. A breast specialist may also be recommended by your doctor for additional assessment.

Ensure that you get answers. Your doctor should discuss the possible causes of any lumps or other breast changes with you and, if necessary, devise a plan for monitoring or treating it. Get a second opinion if your doctor's recommendation doesn't sit well for you.

You can keep your breasts healthy and find early illness signals by performing a monthly breast self-exam. The steps of a breast inspection can be included in your daily routine, such as when you get ready for bed or take a shower. With each breast self-examination, your body will become more familiar to you. Knowing what is typical for you will help you recognize changes as they happen.

Breast cancer screening is a common service provided by hospital clinics and other healthcare facilities. By performing a breast self-exam once a month, you can assist your medical team in maintaining breast health. 

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