All us women have them. Maybe some of us wish we did not have so much of them.
All come in different shapes and sizes. Some women even have different sized breasts, which can be normal.
At your yearly physical appointment, a breast exam should be expected. A thorough breast exam by your provider should be done every year. I talk to my patients during each breast exam reminding them what is normal or abnormal.
We used to tell you to check your breasts every month, however, that created anxiety and a lot of unnecessary testing for normal lumps and bumps. I do recommend being aware of your breast tissue though. The best time to check your breast tissue is one week after your period.
Breastcancer.org has a list of 5 easy directions on how to perform a proper Breast Self-exam (BSE). https://goo.gl/LMCwwE
Don't forget to check your armpit thoroughly because we also have breast tissue there, along with lymph nodes. Many abnormal lumps have been found in the armpit.
The second thing you need to know is your family history. Genetics can play a big role in your breast health. Ask your mom, sisters, aunts, and grandmas about their histories. If you have a strong family history, then we may change how often we examine your breasts.
Know your family history!
Between ages 40-45 you can choose to have a mammogram every year. Old guidelines recommended mammograms every year starting at age 40, however, the American Cancer Society recommends every year starting at the age of 45. Over 55 years old, women can opt to have a mammogram every other year. https://goo.gl/OrnFeQ
Sometimes I get asked about the actual test and if it causes a lot of pain when they SQUEEZE your breasts. Truthfully, I don't know. I have a few more years before its my turn, but you can check out this great article about mammograms for more information. https://goo.gl/SChoVN
There is a blood or saliva test called the BRCA genetic test. This tells us if you carry the BRCA gene and gives us more information if you're at increased risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer. Ask your midwife or OBGYN about this testing, especially if you have a strong family history.
Now, these are the basics of breast screening. The take home message for your breasts:
1. Know your own breast tissue
2. Know your family history
3. Early detection is key