There are many things in our day to day environment that are out of our control. As women looking to take control of our health and wellness, we must remember that includes our breast health. Keeping our breasts healthy can include incorporating daily lifestyle habits and regular self examination. Examining our breasts ourselves can not only encourage detection of breast cancer but can also ensure you are familiar with your breasts so you will know the difference if you see or feel something irregular.
Our breasts are often underrated and overlooked in terms of health and wellness. But as a woman in Canada the chances of having breast cancer are 1 in 8, over the age of 54 that risk increases by 40%. Early detection is key to supporting our ultimate and health and wellbeing. Self examinations should not replace regular physicals or imaging with your doctor, but they can be a useful tool to help with detection. Help support your breasts by making them an important part of your self care routine.
Who, What, When, Where and Why We Should Consider Breast Self Examination
WHO: Any woman over the age of 20 should consider making breast self examination a regular part of her self care routine.
WHAT: You are feeling for distinct lumps or masses in the breast tissue but that is not the only thing to look for. You should also make note of any changes in the breast size or shape along with thickening or dimpling of the skin, changes in the nipple and discharge or secretions should all be considered when examining the breast.
WHEN: Women should be checking their breasts at least once a month. The best time to check is 1 week after starting your period. Menstruating can cause a lot of pain, discomfort, and changes in how the breast feels. 1 week after you’re less likely to be experiencing swollen or tender breasts from your period.
WHERE: In the shower, lying down, in front of the mirror or all the above. The breasts should be checked from many angles. They should be observed and felt all around. Self examination requires you to feel around not just the breast itself but the areas around it as well. Feeling from the collar bone to underneath the breast along with the side of the breast and into the armpit area.
WHY: You live your life in this beautiful body, and it is important to get to know it and to feel connected to it. Knowing how your breast look and feel can help you to notice changes that occur. When you take consistent steps for your own health and wellbeing it is an empowering habit that will help you to feel good and in control of your own health.
Tips for Self Examination
Look at you breasts in the mirror – Start by removing all clothing and undergarments and have a good look at your breasts. Explore all areas of the breast looking for any dimpling, puckering or abnormalities. Be sure to look at the sides and lift the breast to look underneath as well. knowing how your breast look and feel normally can help you tell if something doesn’t feel right.
In the shower: Lather your hands and using 3 fingers feel from the outside of the breast toward the nipple in a circular motion. The water and soap help the fingers easily glide across the skin.
Raise your hands: Life one arm in the air while using the other hand to examine the breast. This helps you feel different parts of the breast including underneath.
Find a proper technique that works for you: There are many online resources with step-by-step instructions on how to perform a proper self examination. Look at a few and see which one works for you.
If you do find a lump: It is important that you do not panic if you find something irregular. Our breasts change depending on our cycle and many other factors could cause a change. There may be things we can feel, but not all lumps or changes are cause for concern. Performing self examination regularly will help you to know what feels normal for your body and what doesn’t. If you do find something out of the ordinary for always have it checked with your family doctor.
Tips to Encourage a Healthy Breast Routine:
Add it to your calendar: Make it an appointment like any other. You are more likely to do it and make it a habit if you have scheduled time for it and there is a reminder.
Make it rewarding: Treat it like a self care moment. Use mediation, light a candle, play soothing music. Making it pleasurable will encourage you to do it.
Make it luxurious: use a special soap in the shower or a fragrant oil to make the experience enjoyable.
Other Ways to Encourage Breast Health:
Along with early detection research suggest the following as just a few daily habits that are helpful in taking charge of your breast health.
Annual physicals with your doctor: This will encourage you both to have a baseline of where your health is at and will help identify if there are changes in your body.
Increase Fibre and eat your veggies: Getting 25g of fibre per day is optimal. Oatmeal, apples, flax seeds, chia seeds are all amazing options to help increase fibre. Veggies are also important as a source of fibre but also families of veggies like the brassicas/Cruciferous family like broccoli cabbage and cauliflower have a powerful compound I3C.
Exercise: Stimulate your lymphatic system and get things in your body moving. This can help eliminate waste from the body and help with healthy body composition.
Speak your truth: Get things off your chest. Don’t hold in things you need to express. A healthy mind helps fuel a healthy body. Try affirmations like I am loved and nourished by all around me.
Lymphatic draining massage: You can learn how to do this on your own to alleviate lymphatic congestion.
Loving and caring for our breasts is a part of self care we need to encourage. Knowing our bodies and connecting to ourselves through this kind of care and attention will not only help us support our breasts but also our whole health and wellbeing. We can start now by taking a first step by making your first appointment with yourself. Get it in the calendar, have it reoccurring and set a reminder. The first simple step to taking control of your total health.
Our Naturopathic Doctors at Lakeside Natural Health Centre are trained to support you in proactive breast health, book a free meet and greet to discuss your breast health needs!