Preventing Breast Cancer
Let’s talk about Breast Self-Exams (BSE).
Studies have demonstrated the clear risk of breast cancer particularly among teens who use oral birth control before their 20s for two years or more. We can take preventative measures by practicing a breast self-exam for 10-15 minutes each month to determine if any changes are cyclic and normal, or continual and need further attention.
Breast cancer can be treated in its earliest stages, but it is not always easily noticed. If a tumor is growing, the most common physical sign is a painless lump. The lump can be found either within the breast itself or towards the underarm area.
We can lower our risk of breast cancer by using preventative measures like tuning in to the ebb and flow of our bodies each month, using a fertility chart.
Body literacy and self-diagnosis
Not only does charting allow for use of natural birth control and timing of conception, but we also become aware of our overall health and well being. Breast self-exams are recommended to practice around the same day once per month, during the Follicular phase of each cycle (on cycle day 7-10, where menstruation begins on day 1). The reason for this, is that the hormone Estrogen effects the tissues in our breasts differently during this time.
Record Breast Self-Exam (BSE) day on your chart, along with any other personal observations.
Many women have asymmetry or lumpiness on one breast or both. This is absolutely okay. The point of a self-exam is to become aware of what is and isn’t normal for your personal body.
Steps for a breast self-exam
Pay attention to: breast pain, swelling, redness, lumps, and nipple abnormalities such as discharge, erosion, inversion or tenderness.
- Observe yourself with a mirror. Pull your shoulders back, and check for dimples, changes in breast size, discoloration and shape. Refer to the image above.
- Be sure to gently, but firmly, feel all of your breast tissue. Begin at the top of each breast and move outward towards the edge of the breast and under each armpit. Then, with your arm extended, feel from the clavicle (top of the inside of the shoulder) to the bottom of the breast.
- Option 1: Picket fence method. Move in an up and down motion with your fingertips across the body of the breast.
- Option 2: Clock method. Beginning from the nipple area, use the finger tips to move out toward the edges of the breast.
- Gently touch and squeeze the nipple to be sure there is no tenderness, discharge or lumps.
- Switch sides.
Keep in mind
Our intention is not to give you any sort of fright about breast cancer! Monthly check ups with yourself is solely caring for your personal health and well being, and is an ongoing act of self love. If anything is painful or concerning to you, be sure to contact your healthcare provider for a professional breast exam. Your monthly breast self-exam is not meant to replace professional check-ups.