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How to perform a self-exam for breast cancer

It’s estimated that around 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. While screening tools are available in hopes of helping to detect cancer early on, studies have shown that mammograms have no impact on mortality. In fact, they may do more harm than good, courtesy of false positives, overtreatment and radiation-induced cancers.

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Healthy lifestyle choices can dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, and regular self-exams can help you realize when something is wrong. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a breast self-exam should be performed at least once a month. Here’s how the foundation instructs you to do it :

  1. Perform the exam in the shower — Use the pads of your fingers to move around your breast in a circular pattern, moving from the outside toward the center. Check each breast as well as the armpit area, feeling for any lump, knot or thickening.
  2. Perform the exam in front of a mirror — Use a mirror to visually check your breasts for any changes, including swelling, dimpling of the skin or changes to the nipples. Start with your arms at your side, then raise your arms over your head and perform the test again. Next, place your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles to check for any puckering, dimpling or other changes, particularly noticeable on one side.
  3. Perform the exam lying down — Lying on your back allows the breast tissue to spread out evenly along the chest well. Raise your right arm straight above your head, and place a pillow underneath your right shoulder. Use your left hand to move the pads of your fingers around your right breast. Use small, circular motions to check the entire breast as well as the armpit area. Use light, medium and firm pressure to check for lumps. Repeat the process for your left side.

If you notice any lumps or concerning changes, visit a health care professional. Lifestyle strategies you can implement to help reduce your risk of breast cancer include:

Reducing your intake of sugar and processed foods

Optimizing your vitamin D level

Intermittent fasting

Maintaining a healthy body weight

Getting plenty of high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats

Drinking organic green vegetable juice each day

Avoiding alcohol

Monitoring your iron levels

Getting enough quality sleep

Breastfeeding children exclusively for up to six months

 

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