Daily Archives: May 10, 2012

Check Out Those Breasts

If you saw the title and clicked over here expecting to see a pair, you’ll be disappointed. But today’s topic is indeed breasts.

Every year, I visit my doctor, and she feels me up. She is checking my breasts for any evidence of cancer. Then I regularly get mammograms in which my girls are squished into pancake shapes and photographed by an x-ray machine. At times I’ve had half a tube of gel squeezed onto my chest and an ultrasound machine wand stroked over me to catch anything that might interest a radiologist.

So far, so good.

In between such screenings, women are encouraged to perform regular self-examination of their breasts. A doctor may have instructed you through a demonstration, verbal tips, or a pamphlet on how to check for lumps, discharge, or changes in your breast tissue. The American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation both give tips on what to look for. Here’s the Komen list:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

However, a recent meta-analysis of two major controlled trials did not show better long-term results for women who did breast self-exams than those who didn’t. So should we still be checking out our breasts?

I’m in the “better safe than sorry” camp here. The jury may be out on how useful this is, but it sure can’t hurt to stay aware. Since early detection is important in fighting against breast cancer, anything we can do to catch issues early sounds reasonable to me. Note that one of the concerns breast self-exams is that they do produce false positives and may lead to unnecessary biopsies. Finding something unusual about your breast does not mean you have cancer. It means you need to talk to your doctor.

So how do you check your breasts? In this quick video, a breast cancer surgeon shows you.

Another, more interesting option is to let the hubby have a go at the breast exam. The Generous Husband (Paul Byerly) suggested this in a post titled I’m just doing a cancer check, relax. I expect that most husbands would happily oblige groping their wife’s breasts to check for any changes. In fact, your hubby may be more aware than you how they usually look and feel and thus might know when something is “off.”

Whatever approach you choose, take care of your girls! No matter what size or shape they are, your breasts are a beautiful part of you. Keep ’em healthy.

“Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle.”

Song of Songs 7:3