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Feel ‘Em Up: Breast Self-Exams

In the shuffle of Halloween costumes and pumpkin picking, it’s easy to forget that October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. What this means is that it’s the perfect time to remind everyone that breast cancer does not discriminate against age, sex or family history. It’s never too soon to start checking your breasts via self-exams. It is actually suggested that women of all ages conduct self-exams every month. The sooner you start, the more familiar you will become with your body and you will be more able to detect any changes in the look and feel of your breasts in the future.

Check you out!

Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles. Notice the appearance of your breasts. Be mindful that your left and right breasts will not look identical. Do you see any dimples, swelling or changes in the look of your nipples? Repeat this process with your arms at your sides and with your arms overhead. See anything out of the ordinary? No? Well, you look good doing this anyway!

 

Rub a dub

Many women find it easier to conduct self-exams in the shower when the skin is wet and slippery. So, suds up! Using your fingertips, move your breast in a circular motion going from the outside area, which includes the armpit, all the way to the center. Repeat on the other breast noticing any lumps, thickening or hard knots. If you do feel something strange, make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible to get it checked. However, don’t freak out! Eight out of ten lumps are actually not cancerous.

 

Lay me down

Don’t skip this step because when you’re lying down, the tissue in your breasts spreads out pretty evenly over your chest. Put a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. Use your left hand and move your fingers around your right breast in small circular patterns over the entire surface of your breast (don’t forget the armpit!). Change up the pressure you use, squeeze your nipple to check for bumps or discharge, and repeat the whole process on the left breast.

 

Breast cancer is very rare among women under 40, but it is not completely unheard of – less than five percent of diagnosed breast cancer cases are women under 40. Breast cancer mutations can be inherited, so if you have a family member who has or had breast cancer, you are at a higher risk of developing it. Mammogram screening may not be recommended for younger women, but that does not mean that you shouldn’t conduct monthly self-exams to familiarize yourself with your body. Since most young women don’t get mammograms, most of their diagnosed breast cancer cases are discovered through self-exams. So, what’s the moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to feel yourself up!

For more information about breast cancer and self-exams, visit the sites for Susan G. Komen and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Images via the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Ariana is a senior communications major and a writer for Her Campus at Drexel University. She loves to learn about pop culture, sex and gender, and is currently working on her senior project researching communication about sexual health on campus. Her go-to binge-worthy shows are Friends and Sex and the City.
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