Doc Talk | The importance of self-breast exams


For most women there's nothing scarier than a lump on your breast.

But feeling for a lump is easier said than done.

When it comes to self-breast exams doctors say what's most important is knowing your body to begin with so you can tell when something feels abnormal.

It's the exam women do every time they go for a physical, a breast exam. But doctors say you should be performing them yourself at home, every month after your menstrual cycle, specifically in the shower.

"It’s the soapy, wet feeling so your hand glides over your breast tissue easy, over your skin easier and it’s not sticky and it’s just easier to feel," explains Kelli Scurfield, Geisinger Holy Spirit Breast Cancer Center Physical Assistant.

But breast tissue is dense and lumpy anyway. Doctors say the tissue is glandular since it produces milk.

So knowing how your breast feels normally will help you determine when there's a lump that's abnormal.

And abnormal doesn't just mean pea-shaped.

Scurfield just dealt with this with one of her patients.

"She said this was shaped like a hockey puck so it was a flatter lump. It wasn’t as big as a hockey puck. So she thought it was normal. So it’s any change in the breast contour, any mass, doesn’t matter the shape."

Doctors say if you notice a lump, no matter the size, call your doctor right away.

But also look for redness on the breast, tenderness, nipple discharge or nipple inversion. Those too could be signs something is wrong.

But don't be surprised if it's not cancer.

"It could be a breast cyst. It could be something called a fibroadenoma, which is a solid breast tumor but it’s not cancerous."

Doctors say the best way to do the exam is by feeling firm around your breast with two fingers and move them in a rotating motion, not a patting motion.

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