With finger pads of the three middle fingers of the left hand, apply 3 levels of pressure (light, medium, then firm) in overlapping, dime-sized, circular motions to feel entire breast tissue, including underarm. Check for lumps or thickening. Repeat exam on left breast, using finger pads of right hand.
The next 2 steps are designed to emphasize any change in the shape or contour of your breasts. You should be able to feel your chest muscles tighten while doing these steps.
If you have a grandmother, mother, sister, or daughter who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, this does put you in a higher risk group. Have a baseline mammogram at least five years before the age of breast cancer onset in any close relatives, or starting at age 35. See your physician at any sign of unusual symptoms.
Taking a few minutes to do a breast self-exam a minimum of once a month can make a lifetime of difference. Nearly 70% of all breast cancers are found through self-exams and with early detection the 5-year survival rate is 98%. If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but do not panic – 8 out of 10 lumps are non-cancerous. For additional peace of mind, call your doctor whenever you have concerns.
AN EARLY BREAST CANCER DETECTION PLAN SHOULD INCLUDE:
Beginning at age 20: Performing breast self-exams and looking for any signs of change.
Age 20 to 39: Scheduling clinical breast exams every three years.
By the age of 40: Having a baseline mammogram and annual clinical breast exams.
Ages 40 and older: Having a mammogram every year.