Breast Self-Exam: Healthy Breast Care includes Monthly Self Checks for Breast Cancer Detection
Naturopathic Nuggets about Breast Self-Exam (BSE)
One in eight women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer, the second leading cause of Cancer death among women in North America
Healthy Breast Care should include monthly Breast Self-Exams (BSE) done by all women, as mammograms miss 25% of Breast Cancers in women under 50 years old. Women with breast implants & men should also self-exam
Breast Cancer risk increases with smoking, alcohol, overweight, denser breast tissue, tall stature, lack of exercise, birth control hormones or menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT), early period & late menopause, no children, late first child, family history of breast or ovarian cancer
Breast Self-Exam should be done 2-3 days after the period, when the breasts are not as swollen or tender. For women who are menopausal, pick a day each month that’s easy to remember, like the first day of the month
Any breast changes such as redness, swelling, discharge, lumps or misshapen dimpling or skin irritations should be discussed with your physician for further investigation
The Prevalence of Breast Cancer
Breast Self-Exams should be taught to young women in high school given that 25% of all Cancers are in the Breast. The thought of Breast Cancer is enough to send a shudder through most of us, especially considering that it’s the most common cancer worldwide in women. In North America, one in eight women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer, the second leading cause of Cancer death among women.
Teach Your Daughters Monthly Breast Self-Exams
Do I Really Need to Self-Exam?
Healthy Breast Care should include monthly Breast Self-Exams (BSE) for all women, especially for those who are high risk for Breast Cancer and for those who do not wish to undergo mammograms. For women under 50 years old, the sensitivity of mammography is less, to the effect of missing 25% of Breast Cancers. This is a critical reason that women should perform monthly self exams. Women with breast implants as well as men should also perform self-exams.
Mammograms Miss 25% of Breast Cancers
Am I At Risk for Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer Risk INCREASES with the following factors:
Age: risk increases with age
Alcohol: dose related increased risk with alcohol consumption
Benign Breast Disease: Cysts, Fibrocystic Changes, Fibroadenoma, Lipoma
Breast Density: more dense vs fatty breasts increase risk & harder to detect cancer with mammogram
Family History: family with breast or BRCA-related cancer (ovarian cancer) doubles risk
Female History: risk increases with early menarche, later menopause, no children, older first mothers due to increased estrogen & progesterone exposure over a woman’s life
Height: taller women have increased risk
Hormone Therapy: hormonal birth control & menopausal hormone replacement increases risk; the longer the use, the greater the risk
Sedentary Lifestyle: regular physical exercise reduces lifetime risk by 25%
Smoking: increases risk by 35% (Jones et al. 2017)
Thyroid Dysfunction: Untreated Low Thyroid can create excess estrogen in the body
Weight: gaining weight, increased risk with high BMI in post-menopausal women, while losing weight reduces risk
Woman: risk increases 100X for women over men, men can still get it so they should self-exam also!
Minimize Your Breast Cancer Risk Being Lean & Healthy
Why Should I Bother with My Breasts?
Our breast tissue fluctuates monthly and self exam is the best way to get to know your own body, and to be able to detect subtle & early breast changes. Breast Self-Exams are controversial as some agencies to not value this practice for early detection, in their efforts to promote mammograms. I obviously disagree, as many cases highlight a women’s role in their diagnosis, in palpating something suspicious for further investigation & diagnosis of Breast Cancer. In fact, a large percentage of Breast Cancers are detected by the patients themselves (Roth et al. 2011).
Only You Know Your Breasts Best
Self-Exam or Mammogram?
Monthly Breast Self-Exam should not exclude Annual Clinical Breast Exams by a physician, and other screening methods including Mammograms, Ultrasound and/or Thermography.
Breast Self-Exams are Part of Healthy Breast Care
What Am I Looking For When I Self-Exam?
If you are a woman over 20 years old, you should perform monthly breast exams 2 – 3 days after your menses or on the same day of each month if you are menopausal. This is to familiarize yourself with your own breasts in the way they look & feel. Any of the following changes to your breasts should be discussed with your physician as they may warrant further investigation:
- Breast Pain
- Breast Lump or Underarm Lump
- Breast Thickening or Swelling
- Breast Skin Irritation
- Breast Skin Dimpling
- Breast / Nipple Redness or Flaky Skin
- Nipple Appearance Changes or Nipple Pain
- Breast Size / Shape Changes
Alert Your Doctor to Any Breast Changes
How Do I Perform a Breast Self-Exam?
Breast Self-Exam should be done 2 – 3 days after the period, or the day you start your hormones each month. For women who are menopausal, pick a day each month that’s easy to remember, like the first day of the month. Observe your Breasts in each of the following ways:
- Standing straight looking in a mirror
- Standing straight, arms on hips, leaning forward, pulling in shoulders, elbows forward
- Standing with arms raised looking in a mirror, arms behind your head
- Put one hand on waist, roll shoulder forward, use other hand to check underarm area for enlarged lymph nodes (corn or bean size), checking above & below collar bone
- Raise one arm, use your finger pads to examine that breast. Use 3 different levels of pressure (light, medium & firm) moving in a circular motion
- Pick one of three ways to examine your breast, lines, circles or wedges. Continue the entire area without lifting your fingers to prevent missing any areas, including breastbone, upper chest area, collar bone, bra line & the critical area between the breast and the armpit. Repeat on the other breast.
- Lines: Start at the top area near the collarbone in a circular motion moving downwards until you reach the bra line, then slowly move upwards, repeating until the entire area is covered. Check the nipple as well.
- Circles: Start at the top area near the collarbone in a circular motion, moving around the breast, making smaller & smaller circles until the nipple is reached. Check the nipple as well.
- Wedges: Start at the top area near the collarbone in a circular motion, move your fingers slowly towards the centre, and back to the edge, repeating until the entire breast is covered, one wedge at a time. Check the nipple as well.
- Lying down flat on your back flatten the breast for easier detection. Repeat step 6 on both breasts, using cream or body lotion for slippery skin as it makes easier detection of breast changes.
- Standing or sitting, in shower using soap as it makes skin slippery for easiest detection of breast changes.
Practice Makes Perfect, Your Breasts Are Worth It!
PRINT THIS for YOUR EASY REFERENCE
Baxter N, Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care. Preventive health care, 2001 update: Should women be routinely taught breast self-examination to screen for breast cancer?. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2001 Jun 26;164(13):1837-46.
Jones ME, Schoemaker MJ, Wright LB, Ashworth A, Swerdlow AJ. Smoking and risk of breast cancer in the Generations Study cohort. Breast Cancer Research. 2017 Dec;19(1):118.
Roth MY, Elmore JG, Yi-Frazier JP, Reisch LM, Oster NV, Miglioretti DL. Self-detection remains a key method of breast cancer detection for US women. Journal of Women’s Health. 2011 Aug 1;20(8):1135-9.
Semiglazov VF, Sagaidak VN, Moiseyenko VM, Mikhailov EA. Study of the role of breast self-examination in the reduction of mortality from breast cancer. European Journal of Cancer. 1993 Jan 1;29(14):2039-46.
This information is for educational purposes only and does not advocate self-diagnosis. Due to individual variability, consultation with a licensed health professional, such as a licensed naturopathic physician is highly recommended, prior to starting a natural treatment plan. For further information, see Terms of our Website.
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