What to Do When You Can’t Make It to Your Mammogram Appointment
Yearly mammograms after age 40 are the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. But if you want to be more proactive about your health, conducting a self-examination of the breasts once a month can help you learn how your breasts normally look and feel, making it easier to detect a lump or other abnormalities.
Benefits of Breast Self-Exams
40% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed after a woman alerts her doctor to a lump in her breast. When you conduct a monthly breast self-exam, you’ll know exactly how your breasts normally look and feel, which will help you notice changes early. Breast self-exams are especially useful for younger women who are at a higher risk of breast cancer due to family history or other health factors.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
Perform your breast self-exam by following this three-step plan. Alert your doctor immediately if you notice any changes to your breasts.
- Feel for Lumps in the Shower – Use the pads of your fingers to check for lumps, knots, or thickened tissue. Starting from the outside and moving to the center, move your fingertips in a circular pattern over the breast. Check each breast including the armpit.
- Look at Your Breasts in a Mirror – While looking in the mirror, inspect your breasts while your arms are at their sides. Raise your arms over your head. Look for swelling, dimpling, or changes to the nipples. Next, place your hands on your hips to help you flex your chest muscles. Continue to look for dimpling, puckering, or other changes. Don’t worry if your breasts aren’t perfectly symmetrical since most aren’t.
- Look for Changes while Lying Down – Lying down makes breast tissue spread out evenly over the chest wall. Start the exam by placing a pillow under your right shoulder and putting your right arm behind your head. Use the fingertips of your left hand to detect lumps in a circular motion. Examine the entire breast and armpit. Use gentle, medium, and firm pressure for the best results. Squeeze the nipple to check for discharge. Repeat the exam on the other breast.
Tips to Ensure a Successful Breast Self-Exam
You can make sure you get the best results from your breast self-exam by following these tips and guidelines:
- If you’re still menstruating, perform your self-exam several days after the end of your period to ensure your breasts aren’t swollen or sensitive.
- If you’re post-menopausal, choose the same day each month to conduct your exam to help you remember.
- Don’t jump to the worst conclusion if you find a lump. It’s normal to have pockets of lumpy breast tissue that are noncancerous.
- Each area of the breast tends to have its own unique texture. Learning what yours feel like will help you detect abnormalities early.
Why You Should Still Get a Yearly Mammogram
Although breast self-exams are a valuable tool in detecting breast cancer, you should still schedule an annual mammogram to give yourself the best possible chance of detecting breast cancer early. Mammograms detect abnormalities in the breast before you or your doctor can feel them, leading to less invasive treatments and more positive long-term outcomes.
Where Can I Get a Mammogram on Long Island?
PURE Mammography is the premier mammography center on Long Island. PURE uses the latest 3D mammography technology in a soothing, spa-like setting to give you the best possible mammogram experience. Contact us today to learn more about our facility or to schedule an appointment.