Early detection is key in the fight against breast cancer. Rebecca Lewis, DO, a family medicine physician and obstetrician at St. Mary’s Physician Associates, discusses why and how women should perform breast self-exams.
Q. When should women begin breast self-exams?
A. Women should begin breast self-exams by the age of 20 and they should perform the exams monthly. Talk to your primary care provider (PCP) to learn when self-exams are right for you.
Q. Is there a specific time of the month that women should perform monthly self-exams?
A. If you are still menstruating, it’s best to perform the exam about three to five days after your period begins, when breasts are less tender. Try to do your exams at the same time each month.
Q. Please describe how to perform a breast self-exam.
A. First, lie on your back with one hand behind your head. With your fingers, gently press down on the breast. You can use circular or up-and-down motions. Repeat this process on your other breast.
Next, while sitting or standing, gently squeeze the nipples to look for any discharge.
Then stand up in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides. You want to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel. Observe the shape and outline of your breasts and look to see if the nipples turn inward. Look for any changes in the texture of the skin. Examples include dimpling, indentations and puckering.
Lastly, repeat the mirror portion of the exam while standing with your arms above your head.
Q. Are breast self-exams a replacement for mammograms?
A. No. Beginning at age 40, or younger if you have a family history of breast cancer, women should get an annual screening mammogram. When combined, breast self-exams and annual mammograms may increase your odds of early detection of breast cancer.
Q. What should I do if I discover a lump?
A. If you find a lump or another abnormality, don’t panic. Many lumps are benign growths that are not cancerous. However, it is important to report any changes in your breast to your PCP or gynecologist. You will need an appointment to evaluate your breast health.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lewis, call 580-233-5553 or book online at stmarysphysicianassociates.com
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