New mothers, whether nursing or not, should conduct monthly self breast exams


I hated not having breasts when I was 14.

Then I hated them when they arrived – loathed having to wear two sports bras and they got in the way of EVERYTHING. 

I’ve never really appreciated my breasts until this year, when they were finally put to good use because I have decided to breastfeed my son.  

I also fear them.  

My mother is a breast cancer survivor. She has been in remission for 22 years. 
I also lost someone I love this year to breast cancer.   She had breast cancer as a younger woman, and it came back last year, eventually taking her life. My heart aches for her and her family every day.
I know that my youth will not protect me, and even though I am breastfeeding (which may or may not reduce one’s risk of breast cancer),  I need to be proactive. My first mammogram was supposed to be last year, but I was pregnant, and had to cancel the appointment. Now that I am breastfeeding, I am still unable to have my mammogram.  I was told that I would need to wait until I had finished breastfeeding and six extra months have passed before I can be seen. An ultrasound is available as a secondary option, which is better than nothing. 
I need to make sure that I continue to do a monthly self-breast exam – even though I am breastfeeding.

To be honest, I haven’t thought about a breast exam since I found out I was pregnant. It wasn’t until I turned my calendar page to October that it struck me  – I needed to start doing my monthly self-exam again. 

So I hit up good old Google for some information, and found out that MANY (if not most) woman skip their self breast exams. The biggest reason seems to be because they forget, but others think they are in the clear because they are breastfeeding. 

The truth is, even if you choose to breastfeed, it will not make you immune to breast cancer. 

So I wanted to share with you the tips that I found for breast exams (mind you, I’m not a doctor).  If you are NOT currently nursing, you just get the skip the bullet points that are about milk. 
  • Conduct your regular self-exam one week after your period – if it has arrived
  • If your period has not come back, check your breasts twice per month 
  • Nurse or pump fully on both sides before doing a self exam – you want to be as “empty” as possible
  • In the shower – use the pads of your fingers and move around your entire breast in a circular pattern, moving from the outside to the center – checking the entire breast and armpit area. 
  • In the mirror – with your arms by your sides, inspect your breasts. Look for any changes – swelling, dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples.  Do this again, with your arms overhead.  Last, place your hands on your hips and stand like your are Wonder Woman – flexing your chest muscles.  Look for changes, but know that your breasts will not match one another! 
  • Lying Down – place a pillow under your right shoulder and have your right arm behind your head.  Yes, you will feel a bit like Rose from Titanic.  You can wear the Heart of the Ocean if you’d like. 
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  • Anyway, using your left hand, move your fingertips around your right breast gently, in small circular motions covering the entire breast and armpit area. Use light, medium, and firm pressure – and check the nipple for discharge and lumps.  Repeat on the left side.
  • If your breasts are leaking, make sure to have a burp cloth nearby to help with any milk issues. 
  • You should examine every area from your armpit to your sternum, and from your collar-bone to your lower ribs.
  • If you find a lump, see if it is there again later, after you have nursed again or pumped.  These lumps are quite often plugged ducts in nursing women. 
  • If the lump continues, do not be alarmed, and know that your body is still going through an incredible amount of changes. Call your doctor to be on the safe side, and he or she can advise you on what to do next. 
Remember, self breast exams are all about KNOWING and LEARNING what is normal for your breasts. 
Try to pick a date or dates each month to conduct your self-exam. Write it on your calendar, put it in your schedule and have an alert go off.  Make the time, not just in October, but for each month!
Do you regularly do a self breast exam? What are your tips or tricks so that you do not forget?