Keep in Touch With Your Breast Health This Breast Cancer Awareness Month
As a bra company, our business was (literally) built around breasts. It’s only natural that we have everything related on our minds, especially breast health. This year, we are proud to partner with the non-profit Living Beyond Breast Cancer and post-surgery bra brand AnaOno to promote the importance of breast health and early detection. Together, we’re putting resources at your fingertips—a great place to start.
Breast Practices with Living Beyond Breast Cancer
How do self-exams help with early detection?
Regularly examining your breasts on your own, more commonly known as self-examination or a self-exam, can be an essential way to find breast cancer early. It is more likely to be treated successfully in such stages.
How often should I perform self-exams?
Perform self-exams monthly. A quick and easy way to remember this is to use the first day of the month as your self-exam date, where you “feel it on the first.” For more tips, follow the #FeelItOntheFirst hashtag on social media.
What signs should I look for during a self-exam?
There are many signs to look for during a self-exam that may indicate potential issues.
A lump (or lumps) in or around the breast is the most common symptom of breast cancer. Lumps can be soft or hard. They can be tender. They can cause pain or be painless. They might move a little when you touch them or feel matted down in place. Lumps can also be benign (non-cancerous).
Other common symptoms of breast cancer that are noticeable in or on the breast (local to the breast) include:
- Swelling of part or all of the breast
- Skin dimpling or puckering, including an orange-peel appearance
- Breast or nipple pain
- A nipple that turns inward
- Red, dry, flaking, or thickened breast skin or nipple
- Nipple discharge that is not breast milk, with or without bleeding
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone
Should you ever experience something “off” or “different” in your body and how it feels, never hesitate to connect with your doctor.
How to perform a self-exam
Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Then, raise your arms. Look to see if there are any changes that you have not noticed before.
If possible, feel your breasts when lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Press down with your fingers and move them in a circular motion about the size of a quarter (or an inch around).
Are there any specific tips or techniques to ensure I conduct a thorough self-examination?
Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do a breast self-exam in the shower. Cover your entire breast using the same hand movements described above.
Should I be aware of any variations in breast anatomy while doing a self-exam?
Don’t panic if you think you feel a lump in your breast. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time, and most breast lumps turn out to be benign (not cancer). There are many possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps, including normal hormonal changes, a benign breast condition, or an injury.
What should I do if I notice any changes or abnormalities during a self-examination?
No matter how a lump feels, see your doctor if you notice any new lumps or changes in your breast. Remember, early detection is key.
What else can I do to monitor my breast health and reduce the risk of breast cancer?
You know your body and family history the best, so be your best advocate with your healthcare team. For instance, some people are more likely than others to be diagnosed with breast cancer, like previvors. Previvor is a term used to describe people with a high risk of developing breast cancer.
What is a previvor?
A breast cancer previvor is a person who is likely to develop breast cancer but has not had the disease. This includes people who have:
- Tested positive for high-risk inherited cancer mutation such as BRCA1 or BRCA2
- Have a strong family history of breast cancer but have not tested positive for any known inherited genetic mutations suggesting a high risk of cancer
If you’re a breast cancer previvor, there are things you can do to manage your risk of developing breast cancer. They include:
- Creating a personalized monitoring plan with your doctor
- Taking risk-reducing medicine
- Undergoing surgery, such as prophylactic mastectomy, sometimes called preventive mastectomy, to remove one or both breasts
It’s important for previvors to talk to their healthcare team about the benefits and risks of taking medicine or having surgery to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer.
Put your health first.
Another great tip – for everyone – is to put your health first. Set aside time for healthy sleep, exercise, and nutrition habits. For fun and easy tips, check out Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s YouTube station for the “Enhancing Your Body’s Natural Detoxification” video series.