Death rates from female breast cancer dropped 39% from 1989 to 2015. While there are better treatment programs available now for breast cancer, the decrease is also the result of finding breast cancer earlier through screening and increased awareness.

Mammograms are still one of the best ways to detect abnormalities before you have symptoms. Breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if you notice changes. One in three women do not check their breasts regularly for signs of cancer. According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump.

RELATED: What Is A Mammogram And What Can You Expect During One? Let’s Break It Down

Self-exams are easy and can be lifesaving.

The signs you are looking out for in a self-exam are:

  • Changes in the shape of the nipple

  • Breast pain that doesn’t go away after your next period

  • A new lump that doesn’t go away after your next period

  • Nipple discharge from one breast that is clear, red, brown, or yellow

  • Unexplained redness, swelling, skin irritation, itchiness, or rash on the breast

  • Swelling or a lump around the collarbone or under the arm

  • Retraction, or inward turning of the nipple

  • Enlargement of one breast

  • Dimpling of the breast surface

  • An existing lump that gets bigger

  • An “orange peel” texture to the skin

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit

  • Visible veins on the breast

According to there are 5 main steps to a self-exam:

1) Stand in front of the mirror with your arms straight at your sides. Look for dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin, a nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple, redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.

2) Raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes.

3) Check to ensure there is no fluid coming from the nipples.

4) Lay down on your bed and use your fingers to rub each breast in a small circular motion. Cover the entire breast from the collarbone to the top of the abdomen, and from the armpit to the cleavage. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts. For the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.

5) Do the same thing standing up. You can also do this in the shower. Some women believe it is easier to feel when skin is wet.

It is encouraged to do a self exam once every month. If you do find a lump, don’t panic – 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. If you find a lump, you should immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation.

While breast cancer is sometimes found because of symptoms women have, some women with breast cancer have no symptoms at all. This is why getting an annual mammogram once you’re over the age of 45 is so important.

Future Female Leaders is donating 50% of our net proceeds from our ThinkPink line to Breast Cancer Research Foundation, where 91% of funding goes directly to breast cancer research and awareness. Please consider supporting our campaign by purchasing our ThinkPink products here

Stephanie F
FFL Cabinet Member