There are several things that women can do to ensure good breast health.
Some of the easiest and importants precautionary steps to take is to eat well and exercise. This not only ensures good overall health, but also good breast health. It is also a good idea to reduce the amount of time that you wear a bra, and only wear ones that fit you properly. Getting a good sports bra for added support when you are out getting your daily exercise or even when you are walking around at home may be beneficial. Or you can decide to go bra-free.
It is also a good idea to learn how to do breast self-exams, and to do these on a regular basis. Also, have clinical examinations done at your annual medical check-up. Determine your risk factors and discuss these with your doctor so that you can decide when to start having regular mammograms or thermograms. Getting a mammogram is especially important if you are over the age of 40 or if you have certain risk factors (e.g. a family history of breast cancer, personal history of breast cancer or a genetic predisposition). A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that will show any abnormal changes before you or your doctor will be able to feel them. This can be pivotal in early diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Women at increased risk should talk with their doctors about the benefits and limitations of starting screening earlier or having additional tests performed, such as breast ultrasound or MRI.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirrorwith your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips.
Here is what you should look for:
- Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color.
- Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortions or swelling.
If you see any of the following chnages, bring them to your doctor’s attention:
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin.
- A nippple that has changed position or become inverted (pushed inwardly instead of sticking out).
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.
Raise your arms and look for the same changes.
While you are at the mirror, gently squeeze each nipple between your finger and thumb and check for nipple discharge (this could be a milky or yellow fluid or blood).
Feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few fingers of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together.
Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side – from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery; any lumps or thickening will be easier to feel than when your skin is dry. Thus, many women like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described above.