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Finding Cancer Early Through Breast Self-Exams

October 9, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Finding Cancer Early Through Breast Self-Exams

Patients who find breast cancer early have a much better chance of surviving. One of the ways women can do that, especially when they're younger than 40, is through monthly breast self-examinations.  But many people don't know how to properly do an exam.

Amy Goembel enjoyed many special moments with her mother, including her wedding day.  But at just 24-years-old Goembel had to say goodbye to one of the most important people in her life.

"Both my grandma and mother have passed away from breast cancer and my aunt has been a survivor for a long time now," Goembel said.

Because of her strong family history, Goembel does breast self-examinations.

"I was laying in bed and just rolled over and happened to feel the lump on the left side," Goembel said.

Goembel scheduled a doctor's appointment right away.  And in July, at just 33-years-old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"I was glad I found it when I did. From what I understand, it was a good thing I found it when I did," Goembel said.

But many women don't know how to properly do a breast self-exam. Dr. Julie Reiland says instead of standing up, you should be lying down when doing the exam.

"I think the most important thing is to flatten your hand and not feel the breast tissue with the tips of your fingers. The reason you don't want to do that is you're going to feel the lumps in your breast that are there naturally," Avera Medical Group Breast Surgeon Dr. Julie Reiland said.

Dr. Reiland also carries gravel rocks with her because she says that's what a breast cancer lump feels like.

"It's sharp. It's edgy. Those things are more typical of a cancer and how that feels under the skin," Dr. Reiland said.

That's exactly what Goembel says her lump felt like. She's glad she caught it early, so she can watch her daughter grow old, unlike her mother.

"It's unfortunate that she'll miss out on all that stuff but I found mine early enough. I'm going to beat it and I'll be around to see her grow up," Goembel said.

Dr. Reiland says you should do breast self-exams once a month.

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