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Breast Self-Exam Builds Awareness

woman looking in mirror image
woman in mirror

You're familiar with every inch of your face. But what about your breasts?

There is little doubt that you have heard about the importance of examining your breasts to discover changes that may signal a problem. But honestly, how often do you really perform this five-minute procedure? Better yet, do you even know the proper way to do it?

Since many women don’t know how to perform this procedure or don’t do it on a routine basis, recent thinking about breast self examination has changed. Traditionally, all women, age 20 and over, were urged to practice this technique as a means to identify changes in their breast, changes that might signal the presence of breast cancer.

New thinking is more concerned with a woman’s awareness of her own breast anatomy, so that she is aware of her particular markings, ridges, or bumps and any changes that occur over time. This thinking has come about because many women seem to be overly anxious about whether they are using the correct technique. Because of this, they either don’t do it at all or they do it randomly.

In order to detect a lump in the breast through self examination, it has to be at least an inch (25 mm) in diameter; mammography, on the other hand, can detect a lump the size of a pencil eraser. Mammography has a proven track record for early detection of changes to the breast that may indicate a tumor is present.

Although there is strong evidence that breast self examination offers the benefits of self-awareness, it may not be sophisticated enough to detect a lump at its earliest stages.

Does all this mean you should abandon the practice of self-examination or not learn it at all? Certainly not! However, keep in mind that the real purpose of practicing breast self-examination is to discover changes in your breasts over time. And being aware of your body is one of the keys to staying healthy naturally.

And keep in mind that performing breast self examination incorrectly may be as bad as not doing it at all! So ask your medical doctor to demonstrate the correct technique for you during your next clinical examination.

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