HOW OFTEN SHOULD I DO A BREAST SELF-EXAM?
Dr. Ruth Heisey, chief of family medicine at Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital, says, “It’s important to know your breasts so you can easily detect changes. Examine your breasts every two to three months during showering or bathing, being sure to cover all of the tissue, including up to the collarbone and into the armpit, using the flat part of your fingers—not your fingertips, which are too sensitive. You’re feeling for lumps or bumps in the breast or armpit or any persistent thickenings or fullness present on one side only. Look in the mirror while drying off; check for indentations, significant changes in the shape of the breast, any one-sided nipple discharge that occurs without squeezing, or crusting or thickening of the nipple and areola. Avoid examining your breasts around the time of your period, when they tend to feel fuller and lumpier. If you notice any changes, visit your health-care provider and discuss whether imaging should be performed. Some women with relatives with breast and/or ovarian cancer may be at a substantially higher risk for both cancers and should consider genetic testing and high-risk screenings (mammogram and MRI) and, for those who are found to carry a genetic mutation, possibly preventive surgeries.