You already know that maintaing a healthy weight and lifestyle, eating right, and abstaining from smoking and drinking too much can help to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer. What about self-checks? How should they fit into your lifestyle to prevent breast cancer? We wanted to know, so we talked to Dr. Debbie Saslow, phD and Director of Breast and Gynecologic Cancer at the American Cancer Society (ACS), to get her take on who should be performing breast self-exams, when and how. Here's what she had to say:
"There's nothing that says there's a perfect way to do this or that this will save your life," Dr. Saslow says. She's right. Unfortunately, self-checks have been found to account for only a small number of early detections. Even so, Dr. Saslow says, it's important for women to familiarize themselves with their breasts.
"What self-checks do is allow women to understand what's normal for them," Dr. Saslow says. And while performing a self-check might not lead to early breast cancer detection, understanding what looks and feels normal to you will tip you off to when something doesn't look normal. This way, rather than randomly performing checks and not knowing when you should head to the doctor's office, you'll be able to have more of an idea of what's right for you.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
Step 1: Lay down. "We used to recommend doing this in the shower," Dr. Saslow says. "We don't anymore, because with the soap and the running water, it turns out that's not an effective way to really feel what could be under the skin."
It's also important to perform the exam while lying down, instead of standing up. That ensures the skin spreads evenly over the chest, which makes it easier to feel all of the breast tissue.