Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an annual international health campaign organized by major breast cancer charities every October to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.
Breast cancer awareness month is also a prime time to remind women and even men to perform self-exams, schedule their regular check-ups, and learn about the importance of early detection. Many organizations, businesses, and individuals participate in activities and events to support the cause, often wearing pink ribbons, which have become a symbol of breast cancer awareness.
Performing a breast self-exam (BSE) is a useful way to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts. Although BSE is not a substitute for regular mammograms or clinical breast exams by a healthcare professional, it can help you become more aware of any changes that may occur. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to conduct a breast self-exam:
1. Choose a consistent time: Select a regular time each month to perform your self-exam. It's recommended to do it a few days after your period ends when your breasts are least likely to be swollen or tender.
2. Observe visually: Stand in front of a mirror with your upper body unclothed. Look for any changes in breast size, shape, or contour. Check for puckering, dimpling, or changes in the skin texture. Also, inspect your nipples for any abnormalities like inversion or discharge. Note that it's normal for breasts to have some natural asymmetry.
3. Raise your arms: Keep your arms at your sides and then raise them overhead. Observe for any changes in the shape or contour of your breasts.
4. Examine while lying down: Lie down on your back and place a pillow under your right shoulder. Use your right hand to examine your left breast and vice versa. Apply a firm, but gentle pressure using the pads of your fingers.
5. Circular motion: Start from the outermost edge of your breast and move your fingers in small circular motions, gradually working toward the center. Make sure you cover the entire breast and include the area under the armpit (axillary region).
6. Vertical pattern: Repeat the circular motion, but this time move your fingers in an up-and-down pattern, following the vertical lines of the breast.
7. Squeeze the nipple: Gently squeeze your nipple and check for any discharge. Note that some clear or milky fluid may be normal, particularly if you squeeze the nipple.
8. Repeat on the other side: Repeat steps 4 to 7 for your other breast.
If you notice any changes during the self-exam or have concerns about any abnormalities, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation. Remember, regular clinical breast exams and mammograms are still vital for breast health, so discuss the appropriate screening schedule with your doctor.
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