Breast cancer and breast self-exam

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October is known for its vibrant fall foliage, sweater weather and pumpkin spice everything. It is also the month where we see a lot of pink to raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer, the most common type of cancer found in women.

Over the past few years, recommendations for conducting breast exams have changed. According to the American Cancer Society, research has not shown a clear benefit of regular physical breast exams done by either a health professional (clinical breast exams) or by women themselves (breast self-exams). Instead of following a regular schedule for breast self-exam, experts instead recommend that women be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel.

“Knowing your body and what’s ‘normal’ for you is critical,” says Dr. Kimberley Clark-Paul, a breast surgeon with McLaren Port Huron. “Doing a regular self-breast exam can help keep this top of mind, and if you ever find anything unusual, sharing that information with a provider is important.” 

How to perform a self-breast-exam:
1. Face a mirror with shoulders straight and arms on hips. Look for changes in size, shape, or color as well as changes to the skin or nipple.
2. Repeat with arms raised.
3. Lie down on a flat surface. Use your right hand to feel your left breast. Using the pads of your fingers, go in a circular motion around an area about the size of a quarter. Start at the nipple and cover your entire breast.
4. Repeat using your left hand to check your right breast.
5. Repeat while sitting or standing. You might find it easier to do this part in the shower.