Breast Self Exam: Don’t Put It Off!

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!

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15 Responses to Breast Self Exam: Don’t Put It Off!

  1. Thanks for directing me to this Ginny. I did find a lump once — and I was lying down on my bed. I was really thin at that point in my life and it turned out that is was just a small lymph node. But what a great reminder. And I'll check out those links.
    My recent post What’s Broken? My Left Boob?

  2. Ginny, this is so good. I am promising myself that I will do it today!! Even with my own sister's diagnosis this year, I have still put it off. Isn't that nuts?Thanks for this! You're amazing.

  3. Thank you for sharing! Even with all the breast cancer awareness stuff happening, I doubt most women know how to do a self exam!

  4. I think you and I live close to a certain big windy city?The MOPs suggestion is awesome; I will bring that up with our SC. Thank you!

  5. Thanks for the very important reminder that I need to bring this up at our MOPS group on Tuesday morning. Hope you're having a wonderful weekend 🙂

  6. Great post and an amazing story that you have. So glad to have met you through SITS and look forward to talking to you more!

  7. Twice I have found lumps by doing a self-exam. I'm pretty aware of how it's supposed to feel normally. I have a tendency to get cysts, but even so, I always worry when a new one arrives.

  8. Such a great reminder…I need to be better about this. I such a weenie. Thanks for stopping by and following my blog…glad that we could meet via our "tribe". I'm in Illinois as well…Downers Grove! Fancy meeting you here!

  9. I have shared your story everywhere, Care2.com, Twitter. Big hug from your BlogFrog sis. I am following and subscribing.Living Out Loudhttp://lgreenss.blogspot.com/

  10. Love the post and so many women still to this day don''t do self breast examines. That is why more information must be given and talked about. My mom was a Breast Cancer Survivor…and I thank God so much…that is why every year I have to have a mammogram to make sure I am doing good. I pray more women will get the examine done because they can't afford not to. Now a days there are organizations that will pay for it if a women does not have the insurance of money. If they check with their local Health Department in their State they can help them. have a great day

  11. that's a good reminder (filing it away, as i'm on MOPS steering, too.)i tend to put this off as i'm breastfeeding, and i don't want to make myself crazy when i understand normal lumps can be common in nursing moms. i should ask my doctor…

  12. Such a great post! Your right, I need to stop feeling guilty and just remember to do it!Thank you for continuing to share your story with us.

  13. Thank you for your continued advocacy work on this. My mom died from breast cancer at the age of 52, after fighting it for 10 years. I'm excited to read about your journey! (From a fellow Spring Chicken).

  14. Great post girl. I cannot second this enough. I found my lump when I was sitting leaning forward, by the way. I wasn't doing an actual exam. Somehow I just reached up and put my finger right on it.

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