Time for a Self-Check!

Maggie Grainger
October 8, 2020
5 min read

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to shine a spotlight on breast health. Carbon Health is partnering with our friends at the Keep A Breast Foundation to educate, spread awareness, and share easy ways you can stay hands-on when it comes to your own breast health.

One of these ways is a regular self-check. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that nearly 40% of breast cancer cases were first detected when a woman felt a lump, demonstrating a crucial case for regular self-examination.

Start to understand what’s ‘normal,’ what’s a cause for concern, and where to get the answers you need if you find something that doesn’t feel quite right with our self-breast checking guide. It’s easy to follow and can help you detect any issues early on.

Screening for breast cancer.

When we talk about a screening, we’re referring to any test that can be taken to detect disease before an individual is symptomatic. Furthermore, early detection refers to that crucial aspect of finding, diagnosing, and treating a disease prior to the onset of symptoms.

There are three widely used imaging tests to screen for breast cancer: the mammogram, ultrasound, and MRI. But there’s another screening for early detection that can help find breast cancer — the breast self-exam.

A few things to think about before you start:

  1. Use an app — Play detective with the “handy” Keep A Breast app. (You can download on Apple or Google Play.) You’ll get the guidance you need to make sure you’re doing it right (and some relatable cheekiness to make your self-exam a little less awkward).
  2. Do it where you’re most comfortable — In the bed or in the shower, self-checks are all about creating a routine (and space) that works for you. Get to know what’s normal for your body so you get to know what feels abnormal too.
  3. Wait a week past your period — Since bodies are in flux through our hormone cycle, you’ll want to ditch an exam during that time of the month and keep your self-check timing specific to distinguish when you’re at your most normal (physiologically speaking).

How to do a breast cancer self-check:

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Spend some time looking at your breasts in the mirror. Put your hands over your head and then on your hips. Move your body so you see every part of your breasts, don’t forget your side and underboob.

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Next, keep looking in the mirror and put one hand behind your head. Now place three fingers to your breast and check for anything that strikes you as different or not your “normal.”

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Move your three fingers in small circles up with different levels of pressure. Choose easy, medium, and then hard while walking your fingers to the next area, instead of lifting them off your boobs.

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Cover your entire breast up and down and into the armpit area, finishing inside your armpit. Leave no breast area unchecked! Especially the side boob! Spend extra time in your pits where your lymphatic system is, as this is where many breast cancers develop.

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Lastly, squeeze each nipple. If there is any discharge or pain, see a doctor right away. Check with your doctor if you note any visible distortion or swelling or if you see any dimpling, puckering, redness or rash, or changes in the shape or location of your nipple.

Get a feel for the factors that play a role in breast cancer.

As of today, doctors can’t account for the exact cause of breast cancer. We do know breast cancer develops when a cell’s DNA is damaged. And we understand that risk factors — something that may increase your chances of getting a disease — can make some people more susceptible than others.

Known breast cancer risk factors:

Family history of breast cancer — If any of your immediate family members have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are at higher risk for being diagnosed yourself.

Age — Your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases as you age. The American Cancer Society reports that approximately 2 out of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women 55 or older. And, among women under age 50, diagnosis rates have slowly increased (0.2% per year) since the mid-1990s.

Pregnancy — Hormone changes during pregnancy can change the size, density, and presence of lumps in your breasts. As breasts become larger, it can be more difficult to detect a lump that shouldn’t be there. (Breast cancer is only found in about 1 in every 3,000 pregnant women. However, it’s the most common type of cancer found during pregnancy.)

Density of healthy tissue — Dense breast tissue can make it difficult to detect lumps early. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends discussing with your physician if you have dense breasts.

Lifestyle — Sedentary living, excessive consumption of alcohol, diets high in saturated fats but low in fiber, and radiation or hormone therapy are all risk factors for breast cancer. The good news: These factors are avoidable. Ready to make some lifestyle changes? Carbon Health is here to help.

Liked what you read? Learn more by downloading the Carbon Health app or visiting carbonhealth.com.

Maggie Grainger

Maggie Grainger is the Brand Copywriter at Carbon Health. She enjoys writing about diverse healthcare issues and helping people live their healthiest lives.


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