The importance of breast self-exams

Sinclair Cares - Breast Cancer Awareness

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The importance of breast self-exams cannot be stressed enough. If women find a lump, it is a major way they can get ahead of a cancer diagnosis.

Julie Shackett, a travel fanatic always on the go, recently felt something unusual in her breast that stopped her in her tracks.

"It just felt like a hard mass- just different," said Shackett.

Just 36-years-old, she'd never had a mammogram before, but she went in for one out of precaution.

"I just knew that something wasn't right. It hadn't been there before and it shouldn't be there," she said.

The lump turned out to be breast cancer.

"I was shocked, absolutely," she said.

Dr. Molly Sebastian, with Virginia Hospital Center, says many women are intimidated by breast self-exams.

"It's hard for women to know what's normal what's abnormal, what's my normal density and what would something bad feel like," said Dr. Sebastian.

She says the key is to do them once a month to establish what your 'normal' feels like so that something abnormal stands out to you. Look for any chance in appearance, including dimpling of the skin, redness or fluid, and feel for changes like lumps, swelling, or soreness.

"There should never be something as hard as your knuckle in this area," explained Dr. Sebastian.

If you find something, visit your doctor right away.

"We are very effective at treating breast cancer when we catch it early, so that's the goal, early detection," said Dr. Sebastian.

Julie Shackett didn't perform regular self-exams before but says she will now, and encourages other women to do the same.

"It's time we pay attention to our bodies and know what's going on and it really is important to make sure we are checking," said Shackett.

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