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Breast Self-Exam - Part 2

by Susun S. Weed

Excerpt from: Breast Cancer? Breast Health! the Wise Woman Way
by Susun S. Weed

Do I need to do all those positions and that muscle flexing?

In breast self-exam, the ideal is to look at and touch as much breast tissue as possible, not just what we usually think of as our breasts. Breast tissue extends from collarbone to just below the fold of skin under the breast, and from mid-chest to mid-side and armpit. By assuming different positions and tightening the various muscles of the chest, we can highlight different areas of the breast.

What’s the best time to do breast self-exam?

Any time you can do it is the best time. You may find your breasts less tender and less lumpy about a week after your menstrual flow begins, but you can do BSE any time of the month. Postmenopausal women may wish to examine their breasts at the new moon. Doing BSE at a regular time helps jog your memory, but doing it as the mood moves you will help you get to know your breast tissues with all their changes. Since breast structures change monthly and throughout our lives, it is beneficial to touch our breasts at a variety of times.

I keep forgetting to examine my breasts. Help!

Do it every day. Like brushing your hair, doing a quick breast check only takes a minute in the morning, and it’s easier to remember if you do a little every day. Check a different quarter of your breast each day. Once a week do a more thorough check: BSE position 7 in the shower, BSE positions 1–6 after drying off. Several times a year do breast self-massage and go on a journey to visit your Wise Healer Within. If you do all that, you can forget monthly checks.

What’s the least amount of BSE I can do and still take care of myself?

The average doctor spends less than two minutes - and only once a year - examining your breasts. If you only check your breasts once a year, but spend 20 minutes on it, you’ll receive 1000% better care than if you rely on “professional” attention.

If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, 15 minutes per month will cover all positions every month. If you’re at normal risk for breast cancer, you can cut this to ten minutes by omitting position 7 one month and 8 the next. If you’re at low risk for breast cancer, five minutes once a month (positions 1 through 7) plus a yearly massage could be enough.

Is there a special way to touch my breasts in BSE?

Like this: Hold the first two or three fingers of one hand close together. Place the pads (not the tips) of those fingers on the opposite breast. (Left hand examines right breast; then right hand examines left breast.) Press gently toward the ribcage and make a small circle, moving the skin with your fingers.

Then press a little more deeply, and make another small circle. Then press very firmly (but don’t hurt yourself) and make a third circle.

Move your fingers a finger’s width away, in your chosen pattern, and make another three circles at varying pressures. Move another finger’s breadth and continue your pattern, circling with light, moderate, and firm pressures.

Can’t I just slide my fingers around on my breasts?

Breast lumps are moveable, like lumps in pudding. If you slide your fingers across your skin, lumps can slide out of the way and you won’t feel them. To feel a lump, you have to trap it. You can trap it between your chest wall and your finger pads. Or trap it between your two hands if your breasts are large: Put your breast on your palm and press down with your other hand with a gentle, firm pressure.

No grabbing. No squeezing. Circle, circle, circle; circle, circle, circle; circle, circle, circle. Soapy is fine; oil, lotion, powder is fine; but keep your fingers pressed firmly to skin when making circles - no slipping and sliding.

What am I feeling in there?

If it’s soft or spongy, it’s fat. The older you are, the more fat you’ll feel. Fat is a normal part of breast tissue.

If it’s like lumpy cream of wheat or large curd cottage cheese, it’s lumpy glandular tissue. The older you are the less of it there will be. Lumpy glandular tissue is a normal part of breast tissue, as is non-lumpy glandular tissue.

If it’s ridgy, corrugated, fibrous, bony, and big, it’s your ribs (and the connective tissues and muscles around and between your ribs). The thinner you are, the more of this you’ll feel. Ridgy, corrugated, fibrous, bony ribs are normal.

If it’s thick, gel-like, or softly firm, it’s a thickening. Thickenings are a normal part of breast tissue. Thickenings are commonly found in a semicircle under the breast (like a built-in bra) and perched in the upper, outer chest near the armpits.

If it’s like a regularly shaped pea, pebble, or marble, it’s most likely a cyst. A slippery lump that suddenly appears in the breast is more likely a cyst than a cancer, but it needs to be watched closely. If it shrinks (or swells and shrinks) over time, or if it stays the same, it’s probably a harmless cyst, especially if you’re under 50 years old. If it only gets bigger, or if you have a sense that it’s cancer, seek assistance. (And read Chapter 6 of Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way, “There’s a Lump in My Breast.”)

If it’s hard and dense, like a dried grain of rice, like an uncooked lentil, like a dried bit of cheese, it could be cancer. Is there a mirror image in the other breast? If so, it’s probably normal for you. If not, seek help. This kind of lump may or may not be normal breast tissue.

If it’s a tender, rounded lump in your armpit, it’s probably a swollen lymph node. Lymph nodes are normal tissue, but swollen lymph nodes indicate injury, infection, or possibly cancer, in the adjacent arm, lung, or breast. I assist my immune system when my glands are swollen by taking 10 drops of cleavers tincture once or twice a day for up to a month. If my lymph nodes are swollen and tender, I use 1–4 drops of poke root tincture daily for a week or more instead. (More information on these herbs can be found in the Materia Medica.) If your lymph nodes remain swollen or tender for more than a month, seek help.

I feel clumsy and don’t know what I’m doing.

Take a break from BSE. Learn breast self-massage. Come back to breast self-exam in a few months. It takes time to get to know your breasts. Give yourself that time. Touch yourself without judging it. Touch because you want to be intimate with your breasts, with their power. Love your breasts. Hum.

For more information, see Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way by Susun Weed. www.ashtreepublishing.com

Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material on this website/email is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.

Susun Weed

PO Box 64

Woodstock, NY 12498

Fax: 1-845-246-8081

Visit Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com

For permission to reprint this article, contact us at: susunweed@herbshealing.com

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