In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I'd share my experience with you today. As you know, I've dealt with ovarian cancer over the last year, so it's incredibly important for me to have a regular mammogram every year, despite being younger than the average requirement for it. (I'll be 35 on November 1st.) I know for some it can be a scary and awkward situation that you may dread or want to put off. You shouldn't, though. If you're at the age that your doctor suggest that you get them, do! It doesn't hurt at all. There's just a little pressure and a bit of awkwardness with a nurse moving your breast around on a plate. The entire process took about 30 minutes from the moment I entered the waiting room to the time I left. That 30 or so minutes out of your day could save your life.
As I was leaving the radiology office, they gave me a little packet of information that I would like to share with you:
Do It Yourself: Monthly Breast Self-Exam
- In the shower: Raise one arm. With fingers flat, touch every part of each breast, gently feeling for a lump or thickening. Use your right hand to examine your left breast, and your left hand for your right breast. (note: The diagram photo shows the unused arm lifted and bent behind the head.)
- Before A Mirror: With your arms at your sides, then raised above your head, look carefully for changes in the size, shape, and contour of each breast. Look for puckering, dimpling, or changes in skin texture.
- Gently squeeze both nipples and look for discharge. (note: Originally I was concerned that I had breast cancer, as during this exam I had a clear green discharge a full year before I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.)
- Lying Down: Place a towel or pillow under your right shoulder and your right hand behind your head. Examine your right breast with your left hand. Fingers flat, press gently in small circles at the outermost top edge of your breast and spiraling in toward the nipple. Examine every part of the breast. Repeat with left breast.
- With your arm resting on a firm surface (chair, table, etc.) use the same circular motion to examine the underarm area. This is breast tissue, too.
Keep in mind that these self exam techniques are not a substitute for periodic examinations by a qualified physician.
(Source: © 1987 Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Philadelphia, PA 19141)
The ABCs of Breast Cancer Early Detection
Start at age 40, and continue as long as you are in good health.
Know how your breasts normally look and feel so that you will notice any changes and report them to your doctor right away. Breast self-exams are an option for increasing breast awareness.
Clinical Breast Exam:
Have one every year by your doctor or nurse if you are 40 or older, and every 3 years if you are in your 20s and 30s.
A Personal Action Plan will help you find breast cancer early.
- Breast Cancer is the most common cancer (other than skin) that you may have to face in your lifetime.
- It can occur at any age, but is much more likely after age 40 and as you get older.
- Learn about breast cancer and how to find it early.
- When found and treated when it is small and in it's earliest stage, the chance for successful treatment is greatest.
- A mammogram can find cancer when it's very small, often years before a woman or her doctor would be able to feel it.
(source: © 2003 American Cancer Society, Inc.)
Here is what a mammogram looks like, and may be used for non-commercial anatomy references only. Yes, this is my own mammogram. I annoyed the technician and office people into giving me copies for stock, because that's just how I roll.