What breast cancer screenings do I need?

October is Breast Health Awareness Month! It’s a great time to get serious about breast health and breast cancer screenings. But knowing what screenings you need when (not to mention paying for them) can feel overwhelming. We’re here to help.

The first step in monitoring your breast health is to learn what’s normal for your breasts. Experts used to recommend that you do self breast-exams every month. A self-exam was a specific way of feeling your breasts. But research about breast self-exams has found that they may not be that helpful, so they are no longer recommended.

Just looking at your breasts and feeling them from time to time should be good enough. The key is knowing what’s normal for your breasts so you’ll notice any changes in how they look or feel.

The next step is to get regular clinical breast exams. A clinical breast exam can detect a lump in your breast and other changes that might require more testing. Breast exams improve the chances of finding breast cancer early – and the earlier breast cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.

If you have breasts, it is recommended that you begin getting regular breast screenings (every 1-3 years) at age 21. If you are over 40, it is recommended that you have a breast exam every year.

During a breast exam, you’ll take your shirt and bra off. Your clinician will look at both of your breasts to see the shape, size, and texture of your skin. They’ll feel your breasts with the tips of their fingers to check if there are any lumps or if something else doesn’t feel normal. They’ll start with one breast and then do the other, including both nipples, and also check your armpits.

Your clinician will tell you whether your breasts look and feel healthy, and can recommend more tests if there’s anything unusual. They’ll also talk with you about your risks for breast cancer and what you can do to help prevent it.

The last step is mammograms. A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast that helps detect breast cancer early. It can find lumps that are too small to be felt during a clinical breast exam. Most people with breasts should get screening mammograms every year starting at age 40. You may need get one before you turn 40 if someone in your family had breast cancer at a young age, or if you have cysts in your breasts, which can hide the symptoms of breast cancer. Some people worry about exposure to radiation from the X-ray, but the amount of radiation is really small. Most experts agree that the benefit of finding cancer early is a lot more important than the small risk of radiation during a mammogram.

Make an appointment with us today to get the breast cancer screenings you need! We accept Medicaid and most insurance plans. If you don’t have insurance, we can help. Planned Parenthood in Salida offers free breast cancer screenings through the Women’s Wellness Connection to those who income qualify. Call 719-539-7291 or go online at www.pprm.org to schedule your appointment today!