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Breast Self-Exams: A How-to Guide to Protect Against Breast Cancer

Publication: Austin Monthly

One in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, but when the disease is found early, women have a 98% five-year survival rate. Screenings are the most effective way to detect breast cancer at its earliest stage.

These tips can help you take proactive steps to protect against breast cancer.

Monthly Self-Exams

Starting at age 20, women should check their breasts monthly. Men should conduct self-exams if they have risk factors like exposure to radiation or a family history of breast or ovarian cancer. 

Know Your “Normal”  

Know what’s “normal” for your breasts and how they change.

  • With arms raised, lay down flat or stand in front of a mirror. Put one arm behind your head and, using the opposite hand, move your fingers from the collarbone and armpit towards the middle of the breast, gently squeezing to find changes. 

  • Familiarize yourself with breast tissue on all sides and between breasts. Tissue toward the top of the breast will be different than the bottom and across various sides. 

  • Squeeze each nipple to check for any discharge or frontal lumps.

Recognize Changes 

Look for signs and changes in your breasts, including: 

  • Asymmetrical changes in size or shape

  • Thickening of breast or underarm tissue

  • Nipple retraction or discharge

  • Dimpled skin

  • Tenderness or pain 

  • Irritation, redness, scaliness, or swelling on the breast, nipple, or areola  

If you notice any changes, talk to your doctor right away.

This article appeared in Austin Monthly (Jan. issue).

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