Just like all aspects of your health, education and regular preventative check-ups can help keep you informed and engaged in your care. However, it’s also important that you pay close attention to your own body so that you can know what is normal for you and seek medical care when your health changes and is no longer normal. With your breast health, this self-awareness is no exception.
Women’s breasts are always changing. They change during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. Along with these normal changes, problems can arise. It is important for you to be aware of any changes in your breasts. Tools such as screening mammograms and clinical breast exams, which are procedures that are performed by health care professionals at facilities like Virginia Women’s Center, can help detect breast cancer before it has progressed.
In addition to regular screening mammograms and clinical breast exams, some women choose to perform a formal step-by-step breast self-exam and others prefer a visual inspection. No matter the technique you choose (both can be performed in the comfort of your own home and without any formal training), it’s important that you are aware of what your breasts normally look and feel like. Should you notice any changes, you can proactively seek medical care.
When inspecting your breasts, stand or sit in front of a mirror. Pay attention for the following changes:
- Changes in color or shape of your breast
- Changes in color or texture of your skin
- Changes in nipple shape or texture
- Evidence of nipple discharge
- Dimpling or puckering anywhere on your chest
It’s common for women to be so concerned performing breast self-exams “right” that they become stressed over the technique. Performing a breast self-exam or a visual inspection of your breasts regularly are both ways for you to know how your breasts normally look and feel and to notice any changes. The goal, with or without a formal breast self-exam, is to report any breast changes to your health care provider right away.
In addition to being aware of your own health, it’s important to be knowledgeable about your specific family history, which can shape your health both in the present and the future. Knowing your family and personal health histories can help you and your health care provider determine the best plan for your individual care.
In the end, it’s important to remember that all women are unique and different. In addition to staying on top of preventative appointments and screenings, self-awareness is a key aspect to detecting changes not only in your breasts, but in your overall health.