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The Importance of Regular Breast Self-Exams: Complementing Your Mammogram

Published June 10th, 2024 by Great Lakes Medical Imaging

Breast health is a critical aspect of overall wellness for women, and early detection of any abnormalities can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment. While mammograms are an essential tool for detecting breast cancer, they are most effective when combined with regular breast self-exams (BSEs). At Great Lakes Medical Imaging (GLMI), we encourage all women to perform regular self-exams to complement their routine mammograms. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of breast self-exams and how they work in tandem with mammograms to promote optimal breast health.

Understanding Breast Self-Exams

A breast self-exam is a simple, straightforward procedure that women can perform at home to check for any changes or abnormalities in their breasts. By becoming familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, you can more easily notice any changes that might require further medical evaluation.

Why Regular Breast Self-Exams Matter

Early Detection

  • Complementary Tool: While mammograms are highly effective at detecting breast cancer, they are typically done annually or biennially. Regular self-exams, conducted monthly, allow you to monitor your breasts more frequently.
  • Spotting Changes Early: Self-exams can help you detect changes such as lumps, thickening, or changes in size or shape that might develop between mammogram appointments. Early detection can lead to earlier intervention and better outcomes.

Empowerment and Awareness

  • Body Awareness: Performing regular self-exams helps you become more aware of your body and any changes that occur. This awareness can lead to more proactive health management.
  • Taking Control: Self-exams empower women to take an active role in their breast health. By regularly checking your breasts, you can take control of your health and potentially catch issues early.

How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Visual Inspection:

    • Stand in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
    • Look for any visible changes in size, shape, or symmetry. Check for any dimpling, puckering, or changes in the skin or nipples.
  2. Physical Examination:

    • Raise your arms and look for the same changes.
    • While lying down, use your right hand to feel your left breast and vice versa. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few fingers of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together.
    • Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side – from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
    • Follow a pattern to ensure you cover the whole breast. You can use a circular motion, a vertical strip, or a wedge pattern.
  3. In the Shower:

    • Many women find it easier to do the physical examination part of the self-exam in the shower. The wet and soapy skin can help your fingers move more smoothly over your breasts.

Combining Self-Exams with Mammograms

A Holistic Approach

  • Comprehensive Monitoring: While mammograms are essential for detecting tumors that cannot be felt, self-exams help you stay vigilant between screenings. Together, they provide a comprehensive approach to monitoring breast health.
  • Regular Scheduling: Perform self-exams monthly, ideally at the same time each month, such as a few days after your menstrual cycle ends when breasts are least likely to be swollen or tender. Mammograms should be scheduled annually or biennially, as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Discussing Findings with Your Doctor

  • Open Communication: If you notice any changes during your self-exam, report them to your healthcare provider immediately. Even if the changes do not seem significant, it is important to get them checked by a professional.
  • Follow-Up: Your doctor may recommend additional imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or MRI, to further investigate any findings from your self-exam.

Contact Us for Comprehensive Breast Care in Buffalo, NY

At Great Lakes Medical Imaging in Western New York, we are dedicated to supporting your breast health with advanced imaging technologies and compassionate care. If you have any concerns or need to schedule a mammogram, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our experienced team is here to provide you with the best possible care and support.

Regular breast self-exams, combined with routine mammograms, form a powerful strategy for early detection and effective management of breast health. By taking these proactive steps, you can ensure you are doing everything possible to maintain your breast health. Schedule your mammogram with GLMI today and take control of your health journey.

Disclaimer: This blog article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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