Self-Breast Exams For Early Detection

One of the most important aspects of fighting breast cancer is early detection. That is why doctors everywhere emphasize a self-breast examination at least once a month, a procedure that is non-invasive, but detects forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers. But what exactly are you looking for when you examine yourself, and how do you begin the examination?

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Standard Procedure

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, there are three methods for performing a self-breast examination:

  1. In the shower: Starting from the outside, move the pads of your fingers in a circular motion, slowly making your way towards the center. Check your entire breast and armpit area for hard knots and lumps or any thickened area.
  2. In front of a mirror: Visually inspect your breasts, then raise your arms high over your head. Look for any changes in the contour, swelling, dimpling, or changes in the nipples. Next, put your palms on your hips and flex your chest muscles, looking for any dimpling, swelling, or abnormal changes.
  3. Lying down: When you lie down, the breast tissue should spread evenly over your chest wall. Place a pillow behind your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Move the pads of your fingers in a circular motion around your breast and armpit, moving towards the center. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple and check it for discharge or lumps. Repeat this routine with your left breast.

What To Look For

During the beast examination, you should be searching for:

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  • Lumps
  • Dimples
  • Swelling
  • Hard knots
  • A thickened area
  • Discharge from the nipple

If you experience any of the above symptoms during your home breast examination, you should see your healthcare provider.

New Technology

Fortunately, for those who are still worried about breast cancer, a new technology is making its way into the healthcare sector which may change the way we see home breast examinations. Using the same technology used to distinguish things in murky water, Ken Wright, Founder of Eclipse Breast Health Technologies, enabled a smaller device to look non-invasively through tissue in search of cancerous cells. “Just like a blood pressure machine, a digital thermometer, or a scale, it gives you better data, it simplifies the process, and lessens the anxiety and confusion of a self-breast exam,” Wright told me.

But Eclipse does much more than simply search for lumps in the breast. Its Pink Cloud application, “is an ecosystem where people can collaborate with each other, a place to upload your breast images, and a place for people to talk about issues amongst each other and to specialists,” Wright said. Eclipse owners can also share the images they upload to the Pink Cloud with their healthcare specialists to more accurately locate problem areas.

Breast augmentation patients can also benefit from this device, no matter what type of implant surgery the patient received. “With the exception of the scars […] the Eclipse will read both subglandular and subpectoral implants,” Wright said.

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In the future, the Eclipse team hopes to develop a larger and more precise clinical exam for breast cancer. According to the Eclipse website, this will also serve as a “see and treat” system, where the doctor will see the tumor and simply zap it away with a laser. The procedure would be outpatient and the patient could go back to his or her daily routine immediately.

Scheduling An Appointment

Until this new technology is developed and released, it is extremely important for women to continue self-examinations, either with the Eclipse detection system or with the pads of their fingers. If you find a lump with either system, call your healthcare professional immediately to schedule an appointment.

Women should get a mammogram every one or two years. To decide how often to get a mammogram, talk to your doctor.