Alternative Cancer Treatment - Performing a Breast Self-Exam

Generaly about 1 in every 12 women will contract breast cancer at some age, the odds of contracting it later in life being greater. Thanks to modern medicine many breast cancers can be treated successfully without impacting the life in a major way. However, the success of one's treatment depends critically on early detection. The earlier breast cancer is detected the better off you are. One simple way to increase your odds of early diction is performing a breast self examination on a regular basis.

The purpose of breast self examination is to detect changes which might signal a condition worth investigating more closely, either with a professional clinical exam, mammogram or other diagnostic aid. Those changes might indicate an abnormality. But to judge what's abnormal, it's essential to know what constitutes normal. That varies from individual to individual, though there are commonalities.

The first step in conducting a proper self-exam is to know what your own breasts feel and look like in general. Each and every part of the body goes through subtle changes on a regular basis. Throughout the menstrual cycle these changes might be exaggerated. Breasts may become enlarged and even more sensitive. If you start your self-exam a few days prior to your period every month it will become a habit. If you are post-menopausal you should choose the same day each month to perform the exam.

Stand directly in front of a mirror naked and inspect your breasts visually. Look for any changes in the size of just one breast. Typical menstrual cycles and other changes that are hormone related will typically affect both breasts simultaneously. Look for any changes in size or color of your areola (darker skin around nipple) or nipple. Take note of any wrinkling, or "orange peel" appearance that is not related to cold temperature. Most areola are round, look for any lack in symmetry.

Squeeze a nipple gently noting any fluid that might come out. Some lactation is normal in some women. Yellowish, pus-like fluid is not normal and you should call your physician for further examination. It could just be a simple infection but it could also be the early sign of a developing tumor. Make sure and do this procedure on both nipples.

Continue to observe the breast looking for tumors. Make sure and feel the entire surface of the breasts with your arms lowered. Don't just observe the surface from the breastbone to the side, but also up toward the armpit as well. Press the breasts firmly with the finger pas and move the hand slowly trying to feel for any thickening or lumps in the breast.

Not all lumps are cancerous, in actuality most of them aren't. A lump could be a simple cyst- which is a fluid filled tissue sac. Often the can be moved slightly and are round. These are benign, but you might want to have them removed regardless. Some will fade away spontaneously over time.

Cancerous lumps are typically harder and less regular in their shape and size. Typically they are attached to breast tissue. Not all hard lumps are cancerous either, so don't get yourself worked up. Many are what are called fibroadenomas, a benign clump of cells. Professional testing is required to know for sure what you have.

You should be extremely aware of any lumps that change in size. Cancer is the malignant and uncontrolled growth of cells in tissue. Tumors do not remain static but instead increase in size and later can spread to other areas of the body.

Continue the self exam by placing the arms overhead and then applying pressure all the way from the breastbone up to the armpit again. Repeat this process on both sides of the body.

Perform the procedure again while lying down, first with the arms lowered, then raised overhead. Again try to feel any changes, especially tissue which has become hard. The procedure can be repeated in the shower in order to lower friction on the skin, but it can sometimes be difficult to find changes or lumps with water beating on your skin. Try baby oil instead.

All women over the age of 20 should be performing breast self-exams on a regular basis, and women over 40 should get a mammogram annually.