Today, women know the importance of checking their breasts in an attempt to catch breast cancer early, but breasts are not the only body parts that should be checked routinely. Self-exams involving other areas of the body are an important way to safeguard health and recognize changes in your body that may require medical attention.
Examining your breasts on a monthly basis is important because as many as 40% of breast cancers are discovered by the patient’s themselves. Since about one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, it is important to perform a self-exam on a monthly basis no matter your age. Breast cancer affects women during middle age and old age, however young women are not exempt from this disease either. Early detection of breast cancer, while it is still in its early stages, is essential for stopping the disease in its tracks.
When checking your breasts during a self-exam, you should lie down and feel your breasts in a spiral or grid pattern checking for lumps or hardening skin. Tenderness, thickening, or a change in skin texture could indicate the need to visit your doctor for a full medical examination.
Skin cancer can affect a person at any age and is the most common type of cancer. Medical experts also assert that skin cancers are on the rise, making self-examinations crucial. According to statistics, one in five people will develop a skin cancer during their lifetime. Although there are various types of skin cancers, it can be difficult for a lay person to tell what type they may be developing. By checking skin for mole changes, growths, or areas that do not heal over time, you can alert your doctor or dermatologist who can then perform a biopsy. Serious skin cancers like melanoma are best treated early. Therefore, it is imperative to check your skin regularly in order to spot any early signs of this type of cancer. Be sure you are aware of all of your moles and freckles so that you will be able to note any changes that occur. A dermatologist can also establish a baseline for all of your moles and can help you monitor them over time.
Cervical and Vaginal Exam
Although a vaginal self-exam should not replace your routine pap and pelvic exam, it can alert you to potential problems to point out to your healthcare provider. The better you know this area of your body, the better you will be able to identify changes. The appearance, shape, and size of genitals vary from person to person as much as the shape and size of other body parts. There is a wide range of what is considered normal. Observing your own body can help you to learn what is normal for you. Ideally, you should lie down before a mirror in order to check for vaginal sores or simply to monitor changes. Your vaginal walls should be pink to reddish and contain ridges or folds. Your vaginal discharge will typically, depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, be clear to a cloudy white. If there is an unusual odor, you should visit your healthcare provider to determine the cause.
Self-exams are simply part of self-care. Check yourself in these areas at least once a month. If you are uncertain about any aspect of self-examination, discuss it with a healthcare professional during your next medical appointment. By tracking your body and its changes, you can more effectively safeguard health and catch small problems before they develop into larger ones.