When you read the words, “breast self exam,” do you start to feel guilty? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Do you shrug those feeling off, and tell yourself you’ll do a self exam…later?
I do. I’m a breast cancer survivor and an advocate for breast self exams, and yet I still don’t always give myself a self exam. I feel guilty when I haven’t done an exam for a while, and then I get nervous that maybe I’ll find another lump. I found a 1 cm lump in my left breast when I was twenty-seven. A self exam is how I found my cancer early and was able to start treatment immediately.
The purpose of my post today is not to scare you, or guilt you into doing a breast self exam RIGHT THIS MINUTE! The purpose of my post is to tell you how I encourage others to perform a self exam so you will be motivated to do one yourself. The medical community recommends that woman 20 years and older perform breast self exams.
About a year ago, I was sitting in the waiting room, hospital gown on, ready for my mammogram. A pink flier caught my attention, and I picked it up. After all, the magazines were at least five years old, and Brangelina was old news. (I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that a Brangelina page exists on Wikipedia.)
The pink flier gave information about a service the breast center provided. They could arrange for a nurse to come show your group how to give breast self exams. Since I was on the steering committee of my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, I took a flier with me. We arranged to have a nurse come to a meeting and show us how to perform a breast self-exam. She was funny, professional, and completely non-threatening. She told our MOPS groups that she wished more groups called the breast center where she works to request a session about breast self-exams. She also told us that of the women who do find something and have a breast biopsy, over 80% have negative results. Just because you find something unusual in one of your breasts does not mean you have breast cancer! However, it is important to follow up with your doctor.
Self-exams are a way to get to know your body; a way to know when something needs to be checked out. I thought I was a breast self exam expert; but breast self exam recommendations have changed slightly over the last few years. I didn’t think I would learn anything new from listening to the expert who came to visit our MOPS group, but I did! Besides just feeling your breasts for changes, a breast self exam includes looking in the mirror for changes and feeling under your arms for lumps in your lymph nodes. Our speaker also did not recommend doing a self exam in the shower. Lying down seems to be the best way to find an irregularity in your breasts. (I was lying down when I found my lump.)
Are you involved in a mom’s group, a women’s book club, or another group that could benefit from this kind of speaker? Check with your local hospital or breast health center. They may have someone who would be thrilled to come speak to your group!
As I was searching online to try and find a self breast exam to show you, this description best matched the self exam we learned at MOPS: Breast Cancer Detection. Please scroll down this page to find the directions for the breast self exam.
This link is another description of how to perform a Breast Self Exam.
If you live in the Northwest Chicago suburbs, this link will give you information on having a nurse come to your group meeting: Early Dectection.
Do yourself and your loved ones a favor…after clicking the “Brangelina” link (you know you want to!) please, please click one of the breast self exam links and read more about it!