Did you know that 40% of all diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who notice a lump in their own breast? Doing a self exam on your breasts each month is important, with or without breast implants. Like, really important.
I know I’m not the first person to tell you that. Maybe you get regular checkups with your doctor and feel like they've got everything under control, but here’s the truth...
No one knows your boobs like you do!
Your significant other might disagree with me on that one, but when it comes to the look, feel and contour of your breast, you are the person most likely to feel an inconsistency. Going in for your regular breast exam simply isn't enough.
There are some differing opinions out there about how breast implants effect the detection of lumps, but most doctors agree that the implant pushes the tissue forward, making it easier to find an unsafe breast mass.
I’ve made a checklist to guide us through a successful breast exam. Some of these are general instructions, but some of them are specific to us girls with breast implants.
Step 1: Pick Your Date
If you have a somewhat regular cycle, its a good idea to pick a certain day in your cycle. This is a good idea because your breasts change in fullness and tenderness throughout your cycle and may make it harder to notice an inconsistency.
For example, I do my self exam on the first day that my period is gone. I chose this day because it’s a happy day :) and because any hormonal tenderness is gone. You could stick a note on your “light day” tampons or pads that says “Check your Boobs!”
If you have irregular cycles or don’t cycle anymore, just pick a day of the month and put it on your calendar.
Step 2: Take a Good Hard Look
Strip down and stand in front of a mirror with some good lighting. Take a nice long glance at yourself facing the mirror. Then lift your arms in the air, turn to the sides and lean over to let them hang.
What you're looking for here is nothing. Nothing new, that is. Any new spots, lumps, dimples, or swelling? If not, lets keep going.
Step 3: Choose Your Pattern
I do these next steps in the shower with soap on my fingers so that they can slide around more easily.
There are several different patterns that you can use to make sure you’ve covered the entire breast, but just pick one and try to use the same pattern every time.
One commonly used method is to imagine the outline of a wagon wheel with spokes, on each of your breasts.
Another method is to go around your breast in a spiral.
Step 4: Cop a Feel
Trace your pattern, on your breast with your fingers in small circular motions. Cover the area from your collar bone down to a few inches under your breast.
Don’t forget your arm pit area and nipple! The side of your body from your armpit to the lowest part of your breast needs to be checked as well as your areola and nipple.
Step 5: Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Next, softly go over your breast, in your chosen method, so you could feel an abnormality that would lie just under your skin.
Then go over it again with a firmer pressure, so you could feel a deeper lying lump.
Step 6: Lean Forward
While leaning forward, feel all around the base of your implant. Learn the change of texture from your natural breast tissue to your implant. Get used to the way your scar tissue feels from your incision.
These may be feelings that you’re hesitant to get familiar with, but this is a great time to remind yourself that your body is beautiful and that you’ve made choices that you're proud of.
Step 7: Lay Back
I’m assuming that your out of the shower for this last step, unless you have a much larger shower than me.
When you lay down, your breasts will shift to the sides of your body allowing you to go through your method again and have more access to your sternum area.
You did it!
This routine only adds about five minutes to my normal getting ready schedule and is well worth the time. Please be sure to alert a doctor if you find any abnormalities. The sooner the better.
And just in case you're wondering, there is absolutely no link to breast implants and breast cancer. We just have to do our due diligence like everybody else!