Importance of breast self-exams between mammography appointments
October 21, 2022
Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wis. – Approximately 30% of all new female cancers each year is breast cancer. And the chance a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 39, according to the American Cancer Society.
Early cancer detection is saving lives. Often, if breast cancer is found early, there are more treatment options, and those treatments may be less invasive.
All women should talk with their health care provider about the appropriate timing for screening mammograms, especially women who are age 40 or at high-risk. A schedule will be based upon your individual health.
Corrie Wajek, manager of radiology services at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals says at age 40 any woman may wish to begin regular screening mammograms. By age 45, women should have a screening mammogram and continue to have one at least every other year.
Between mammograms, Wajek says it can be beneficial for women to perform breast self-exams at least once a month.
“A regular self-exam allows you to become familiar with how your breasts look and feel,” says Wajek. “This could help you feel an unusual lump, see discharge or alert you to a change in your breast health should an abnormality form.”
How to perform a breast self-exam
In front of mirror
- Look at your breasts in a mirror with your arms at your sides. Then raise your arms over your head. Look for changes in the contour, swelling or dimpling of the skin between arm positions.
- Rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Look for dimpling, puckering or changes, particularly on one side.
In the shower
- With the flat part of your pointer, middle and ring fingers, check the entire breast and armpit area by pressing with light, medium and firm pressure. Feel for any lumps, hardened knots or thickening of the skin.
- Repeat this process with the other breast and armpit.
- Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. Using the flat part of your left pointer, middle and ring fingers feel around the right breast tissue, searching for any sensitivity, lumps or discharge from the nipple.
- Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Wajek says if you find a lump or other abnormality in your breast it doesn’t mean there’s a problem. In fact, she says eight out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. It is best however, to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss any changes in your breast health.
For more information about breast cancer, screening mammograms and support for women in need, visit: www.nationalbreastcancer.org/
About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.
About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels.
About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.
Communications Department HSHS Wisconsin