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Breast Screenings

When breast cancer is in the localized stage and detected early, the 5-year relative survival rate is 99%, according to the American Cancer Society. Women ages 20 and up should start a clinical breast exam every 1-3 years and do self-exams at home each month.

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Breast Self-Exam

What Is Breast Self-Exam?
A vital early detection tool, breast self-exam involves a combination of physical and visual examinations of the breasts to look for signs and symptoms of breast cancer. The self-examination's purpose is to become familiar with the way the breasts look and feel normally. This breast self-awareness can help identify abnormalities and changes in your breasts, including lumps or skin changes. You could contact your doctor right away to report any changes discovered during a breast self-exam.

A breast self-exam is important for the early detection of breast cancer, but it should not take the place of clinical breast exams and regular mammograms.

How Often Should I Perform a Breast Self-Exam?
Women ages 20 and older are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. 

For women still menstruating, the self-exam is recommended a few days after the menstrual period ends. After menopause, it is recommended a breast self-exam be performed on the same day of each month.

Mammograms can help detect cancer before you can feel a lump, while breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel. Contact your health care provider if you detect any changes in your breasts, including any lumps, sore spots, changes in the skin, or nipple discharge.

How to Perform A Breast Self-Exam
Instructions from the National Breast Cancer Foundation

1) In the Shower 
Using the pads/flats of your 3 middle fingers, examine the entire breast and armpit area, pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure. Check both breasts monthly, checking for any new lumps, thickenings, hardened knots, or any other changes.

2) In Front of a Mirror 
With both arms at your sides, visually examine your breasts, looking for any changes in the shape or contour of the breasts, any swelling, dimpling, or other skin irregularities on or around the breasts, or any changes in the nipples.

Then, flex your chest muscles by resting your palms on your hips and pressing firmly. Look for any puckering, dimpling or other changes, especially on one side. The left and right breasts will not match exactly; few women’s breasts are perfectly symmetrical.

3) Lying Down
While lying down, breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. With your left hand, move the pads of your 3 middle fingers around your right breast, covering the entire breast area and armpit.

Use light, medium, and firm pressure to feel for any new lumps, hardened knots, thickenings or any other breast changes. Squeeze the nipple to check for discharge. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

If I Perform Breast Self-Exams, do I need a Mammogram?
Mammography can usually detect tumors before they can be felt, so screening is key for early detection. However, when combined with regular medical care and mammography, self-exams can help women know what is normal for their breasts so they can report any changes to their physician.

If you discover a lump or other irregularity, schedule an appointment with your health care provider, but don’t panic; 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. 
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