As women, we have to undergo a ton of tests and exams every year to make sure our delicate systems are running like clockwork. Most of these tests are conducted by a gynecologist or a doctor so we don’t worry about them till we actually have to make the appointment and then wait for the results. However, because health care is such a crucial aspect of life and there are now more diseases that can afflict women than ever before, the awareness and panic is high and several home tests are being devised so that women can give themselves a a going over ever so often without having to make the time for a checkup.
A breast examination is one of these self-tests. The exam used to be conducted only by doctors but is now common knowledge out of necessity. In fact, it is something that every woman should know how to do as part of an empowered and educated life.
What is a Breast Examination?
A breast exam is simply a self-examination of the breasts to feel for any changes that might have occurred in its structure.
A personal breast examination should be conducted every month but you should still go get a professional breast examination every year or so because a doctor is more proficient at it and may pick on something that you missed.
What’s more, there are several further breast screenings that can be done with machines in a clinic or hospital in case your doctor does suspect a change. That’s not something you can do on your own and you can’t prescribe it for yourself either. You also wouldn’t know which tests to get done if you could prescribe it for yourself. So regardless of how good you have gotten at conducting a breast examination or how many breast examinations talks you have had with your doctor or the volume of research you have done online, let your doctor do it once a year.
We will look into how exactly to conduct a breast examination for healthy breast in a later post.
The Importance of a Breast Examination
A breast exam is an easy way to catch breast cancer in its earliest stages. This is really important because most types of cancers are silent killers and they can wreak havoc on the inside with only very vague symptoms to indicate that something is amiss, symptoms that can and are attributed to other, less-sinister causes.
Cancer is a dreaded word anywhere. Even someone who speaks no English will understand the meaning. In the last fifty years, there has been a veritable cancer epidemic around the world. The rise of pollution, toxic dumping in our waters, genetically modified foods and the utter lack of personal responsibility when it comes to our own health has made humanity a vulnerable target for the disease. It is precisely because we are so unhealthy that cancer finds it so easy to destroy us. So if we can find a way to catch cancer early on, we will find it easier to banish it and recover fully.
If breast cancer is caught only in the later stages, there is a lower chance of survival even with surgery, chemotherapy and all the best medication. In the earlier stages, there is a more than excellent chance of full recovery.
When you conduct a breast examination on a regular basis, you develop an intimate understanding of the structure of your breasts and will be able to tell immediately if you feel a lump or a knot, no matter how small. Often, the lumps turn out to be benign tumors. This means that they are not harmful, but your doctor will recommend getting them out anyway on the off-chance that they turn cancerous later on.
As you can see, there is a lot at stake here. All you have to do to improve your odds of fighting the disease is to learn how to do a breast examination properly and perform it on yourself at the same time every month.
Although this article is mostly geared towards women, know that men can get breast cancer too. The only reason that this is not widely known is because the instances of the disease occurring in men are much fewer. Just because fewer men are afflicted by it does not mean it cannot happen. Men who are more vulnerable to the disease include those who have extra fatty tissue around around their nipples which gives them the appearance of women’s breasts. That being said, even lean men can develop the condition and will in fact be able to detect any changes earlier on as the lumps will be felt better.
Other Tips About Breast Examinations
- A breast examination is not a replacement for a mammogram or other cancer screening tests. Not all cancers develop as knots or lumps. Several of them cause the breast tissue to undergo changes which are not detectable by touch. A mammogram uses an imaging technique like an X-ray to evaluate if the breast has undergone any abnormal changes. Women over 40 in particular are advised to get mammograms at least once a year. If you know you are at high risk of cancer, you can get mammograms done earlier and more often.
- You should perform a breast exam on the same day each month. Breasts undergo changes throughout the month as your body undergoes hormonal changes through the menstrual cycle. By conducting the breast examination on the same day every month, you are ensuring that you are on the same day of your cycle as the last time you checked. If you conduct the breast examination on a different day each time, you are bound to notice changes and will be needlessly alarmed. A good time to do a breast examination is about a week after your period begins.
- Pre-pubescent girls and those still undergoing puberty have changes in their breasts all the time so it would be better to get their breast examinations conducted by a doctor so that she can tell if it is a normal part of development or if something is wrong. There has been a rise in cases of breast cancer in women under 20 so it is worth teaching your kids about breast examinations too. However, do not scare them or yourself too much as less than 1% of the lumps found in teens and pre-teens turn out to be malignant. Most of them are benign and can be gotten rid of permanently with surgery.