This post was brought to you by Scarsdale Medical Group.
Most of us have been touched by breast cancer in some form during our lives. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we worked with Dr. Elizabeth Hung, OBGYN from Scarsdale Medical Group to get the facts on how to do a self-breast exam and what to look (or not look for). Mark your calendar to perform a self-breast exam every month!
What are the general guidelines for doing a self-breast exam?
General guidelines for doing a self breast exam is to raise the arm of the breast you are examining and place that hand behind your head. You can lie down for this, if it is easier. Using the opposite hand, start in the center at the nipple and, in a circular motion, spiral your way outward until the entire breast has been examined, and go into the armpit because there is breast tissue there. Repeat on the other side. Afterwards, standing in front of a mirror, put both hands on your hips and look in the mirror. There should be symmetry — no dimpling, abnormal pulling, or discoloration of the skin.
How often should you do this?
Everyone should do a breast exam once a month. The best time is one week after your period, when the breast is least lumpy.
What should I be looking for?
You shouldn’t necessarily be looking for anything. Mostly, you should get to know the texture and feel of your breasts, which mostly feels like chicken fat. If anything new is found, then alert your physician.
What are the other breast health guidelines? Is it still the norm for mammograms to start at age 40?
The recommendation is to have a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35-40. I usually tell someone who has no family history of breast cancer to do it around 37-40, and those with a history around 35-36. At 40, women should get mammograms yearly. Some women with “dense” breasts, which will be denoted on their mammogram, should also have a breast ultrasound. There is no need to just do a breast ultrasound; the insurance companies do not cover this unless there is documentation of dense breasts on the mammogram.
Elizabeth Hung, MD, MPH, FACOG earned her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in public health from Yale University, where she was also a Teaching Fellow. She received her medical degree from the University of Vermont, College of Medicine. Dr. Hung is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and is a Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has authored a number of publications and has been the recipient of various awards, including the Berlex Resident Teaching award as well as the Cancer Research Training Award from the National Institutes of Health. She also served as research fellow at the National Cancer Institute from 2002 to 2004. She provides gynecologic care for both adults and adolescents.