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Breast Exams

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death for women. Heart disease is the first. When it is detected early enough, it is often successfully treated; when it is not detected early, it is often fatal. For this reason breast examinations are of extreme importance to all women. Either your gynecologist or your general health practitioner should perform regular breast exams on you, but it is even more important that you perform them regularly on yourself every month, just after your period is over. Most women actually find their own breast lumps and or tumors.

It is important to begin a routine of self exams at an early age, because even though the incidence of breast cancer is extremely low in women in their teens and twenties compared to their thirties and forties, it does occur. Also, it is necessary to be able to feel what is normal breast tissue for you and what is not. Abnormal clumps or lumps of tissue are potential symptoms of problems and need to be detected and dealt with. It is these types of lumps that you are checking for while doing breast self exams.

Breast tissue is naturally lumpy, and it takes a little bit of time to become familiar with what is normal for you. The consistency of your breasts will often change throughout the menstrual cycle, becoming more lumpy just before menstruation. The best time to examine your breasts is soon after you finish your period. You should examine your breasts at approximately the same time each month in order to monitor yourself effectively.

Breast Self-Exam

To examine your breast, use the flat of your fingers, not the tips, and feel around your breasts, one at a time, in a circular direction going from the outside (big circles) in (little circles). Monitor your breasts in this way for any abnormal lumps or tenderness. Sometimes it is helpful to raise your arm over your head on the side that is being examined, or to lie down to perform the exam. If you feel anything that is very hard (as hard as a frozen pea) it is a good idea to have your health care provider feel it also, just to make sure that is feels normal. By doing breast exams in your teens, you will be making them part of a monthly routine that you will do for many years to come.

For a Breast Q and A, see Breasts.

About Breast Lumps ...

If you have fibrocystic breasts or breast pain, this reading is recommended.

Please see your health care provider for any findings you discover and for any questions you have.

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