Every year, I visit my doctor, and she feels me up. She is checking my breasts for any evidence of cancer. Then I regularly get mammograms in which my girls are squished into pancake shapes and photographed by an x-ray machine. At times I've had half a tube of gel squeezed onto my chest and an ultrasound machine wand stroked over me to catch anything that might interest a radiologist.
So far, so good.
In between such screenings, women are encouraged to perform regular self-examination of their breasts. A doctor may have instructed you through a demonstration, verbal tips, or a pamphlet on how to check for lumps, discharge, or changes in your breast tissue. The American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation both give tips on what to look for. Here's the Komen list:
However, a recent meta-analysis of two major controlled trials did not show better long-term results for women who did breast self-exams than those who didn't. So should we still be checking out our breasts?
I'm in the "better safe than sorry" camp here. The jury may be out on how useful this is, but it sure can't hurt to stay aware. Since early detection is important in fighting against breast cancer, anything we can do to catch issues early sounds reasonable to me. Note that one of the concerns breast self-exams is that they do produce false positives and may lead to unnecessary biopsies. Finding something unusual about your breast does not mean you have cancer. It means you need to talk to your doctor.
So how do you check your breasts? Well, I could post a clinical video from a medical website but, being the gal that I am, I think that learning about breast self-exams should be more fun than that. So here's a instructive video from a woman who wrote an entire book about breasts and is fondly referred to as "the boob lady." Elisabeth Dale, author of bOObs: A Guide to Your Girls (which I can't recommend because I haven't read it), gives us the following demonstration.
Another, more interesting option is to let the hubby have a go at the breast exam. The Generous Husband (Paul Byerly) suggested this in a post titled I'm just doing a cancer check, relax. I expect that most husbands would happily oblige groping their wife's breasts to check for any changes. In fact, your hubby may be more aware than you how they usually look and feel and thus might know when something is "off."
Whatever approach you choose, take care of your girls! No matter what size or shape they are, your breasts are a beautiful part of you. Keep 'em healthy.
"Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle." Song of Songs 7:3