Breast Self-Exam While Pregnant or Breast Feeding
It’s a dangerous myth that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can’t get breast cancer. That’s why it’s still vitally important to check your boobies even if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
When you are pregnant or breast feeding, your boobies and your body are constantly changing. Your boobies may be sensitive, sore and swollen—so much so that you don’t want anybody touching them. You may feel new lumps that you have never had before. Be mindful, though, that your risk of getting breast cancer does not change when you are pregnant or nursing. The risks are the same as with any other woman your age. The two biggest risk factors are being a woman and getting older. Having your first baby before the age of 30 decreases your risk of getting breast cancer. Since women are having their first child at a later age, the risk of breast cancer has increased.
This is an exciting time for you and your body and your boobies. Getting to know your breasts will make you more comfortable with the changes occurring. In fact, it’s a perfect time to start getting familiar with your boobies, especially if you plan on breastfeeding. Soon, your baby will only be interested in your boobies.
Be familiar with your breasts so that you can note changes that occur. Breast Health is about knowing what may be normal for your breasts. If you go in to see a health care provider for something you feel is not normal for your breasts, make sure your doctor can tell you exactly what it is you are feeling. According to Dr. Rick Clarfeld, Breast Surgeon at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, Washington, it is important not to simply accept reassurances that what you are feeling is ‘nothing to worry about’ because you are pregnant or nursing. Make sure you have your health care provider inform you of whatever follow up testing is available to tell you what it is that is going on with your breasts.
There are limitations to all of the methods of detection and normally we need to use a combination of Breast Self-Exam (BSE), clinical breast exam, ultrasound, mammography, and MRI to screen properly. When you are pregnant you are limited as to what imaging options are available to you. Discuss all your options with your health care provider. Most lumps and irregularities that occur to your breasts during pregnancy or breastfeeding are normal changes that your body is going through. Just to make sure, check your boobies once a month even if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
1. Check your boobies on the first day of each month.
2. Once you get your menstrual cycle back, check your boobies 4–6 days after the start of your period.
3. Do it in the shower, while your body is wet and soapy.
4. Use the pads of 3 fingers to check each breast for lumps.
5. Move your fingers in a row or “lawnmower” pattern.
6. Go up and down all the way across one breast and then do the other.
Areas to check
Outside: armpit to collar bone, and below breast Middle: the breast itself Inside: the nipple area
Things to look for after you shower
Liquid coming from nipples (bloody discharge can be normal, particularly during the 3rd trimester and first couple weeks after delivery and should end in 2-3 weeks.) Puckering of the skin Redness or swelling that may be in isolated areas of the breasts Change in size or shape that does not seem normal for you.
You can also do a breast self-exam lying down in bed. Do it in a place that is most comfortable and effective for you. The important thing is that you do it. Be gentle on your breasts, since they are probably sensitive to touch. Remember most lumps are not cancer. It’s not about finding cancer; it’s about knowing what is normal for your breasts.
If something does not feel normal, call your doctor.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation recommends a 3-step approach to breast cancer screening that includes, depending on a woman’s age, a combination of mammography, clinical breast exams and breast self-exams:
Monthly breast self-exam beginning by age 20. Clinical breast exam at least every 3 years beginning at age 20, and annually from age 40 on. Annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40.
Women with a family history of breast cancer or other concerns about their personal risk should consult with a health care provider. Screening tests may need to be done more often and/or started earlier than usual. For more information, please go to www.komen.org. As part of a total approach to breast health, women should become familiar with their own bodies, play an active role in their health, and develop a close partnership with their health care providers. Click here to sign up for a free monthly reminder to Check Your Boobies. Breast Self-Exam instructions were provided from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. For more information, please go to www.komen.org.