One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in her life. Catching the disease early can be the difference between life and death.
One of the ways you can detect breast cancer is by doing regular breast self-exams, but many women aren't doing them properly.
Breast Surgeon Dr. Julie Reiland gets many questions from patients about how to do a proper breast self-exam.
"We were having people who were very stressed about having to do the exam and not knowing what to feel for," Reiland said.
Reiland explains how to do a proper self-exam. First, you should flatten your hand to feel for a lump; don't use your fingertips.
"When you're feeling the breast with the tips of your fingertips, you are going to feel every little lump and bump. That's just normal stuff," Reiland said.
Also, pay attention to the size of the lump. You can't physically feel a breast cancer lump until it's around one centimeter long. That's around the size of a peanut.
"One centimeter is about one-fourth of an inch. Anything under one centimeter is really what mammograms are best at finding," Reiland said.
Reiland says a breast cancer lump feels like a hard rock. It's sharp and edgy, not smooth. She also recommends lying down, instead of standing up, during a breast self-exam.
"When you have, I'm sorry, droopy breasts, you're going to miss things on the underside of your breast if you're doing a breast exam while in the shower. To me lying flat, you want that breast tissue to spread out and be as flat as possible on the chest wall," Reiland said.
As far as when you should do a self-exam, Reiland recommends checking once a month.
"We usually recommend after your period or if you don't have periods anymore, just doing it at the beginning of the month or pick a day that really works for you," Reiland said.
Reiland says those simple steps could improve early detection of a disease that impacts so many women.
Reiland also points out that women over age 40 should get a mammogram every year.