group of women at a breast cancer awareness run

In October, we celebrate the lives of women everywhere who have victoriously conquered breast cancer, and those who continue to struggle. Breast Cancer Awareness month is a reminder of the thousands of women who suffer or have suffered from this disease. Today, about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer. In 2016, it is expected that about 40,450 women will die from breast cancer. Being the second most common cancer among women, it is essential that you know the warning signs of breast cancer.

How to Check for Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer

Identifying signs of breast cancer at an early stage can be the difference between life and death. Performing breast self-exams is one way to detect signs of breast cancer.

If you don’t know how to perform a breast exam, follow the steps below:

Step 1

Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror for any puckering, bulges or excessive wrinkles. Rashes, abnormal coloring, or swelling could also be signs for concern.

Step 2

After you have examined yourself in the mirror, next raise your arms and look for the same signs as step one. By raising your arms, it changes your perspective and may allow you to detect abnormalities that you didn’t see before.

Step 3

While your arms are raised, look for any abnormal fluid or blood secreting from your nipples. Abnormal fluid is sometimes described as milky, watery, or being yellow in color.

Step 4

Next, examine your breasts while laying down. Use your right hand to feel your left breast, and your left hand to feel your right breast. Using the pads of your first few fingers, in a circular motion, firmly examine your entire breast from top to bottom. Look for any asymmetrical lumps (what you find in one breast, you should be able to find in the exact spot on the other) or any hard, immobile lumps.

Step 5

Finally, examine your breast in the same manner as step four while either sitting down or standing up. The change in position changes the elasticity in your breast and will allow you to perform a more thorough exam.

Self-performed breast examines are vital to your health, and they should be performed monthly.  Johns Hopkins Medical center reports, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”

Although self-exams are a great start for early detection, mammograms are more exact and can detect tumors before they can be felt. Scheduling yearly mammograms will ensure that you are healthy and cancer-free. Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but it can be detected early on and treated if you know the signs. It is important you know how to perform self-examinations, and to schedule regular appointments with your doctor to have a mammogram.