Are you Practicing Safe Breast Health?

reconstructive surgeryIn November 2010, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force changed their mammogram guidelines from annually after age 40 to biannually starting at age 50. They also recommended stopping breast self-exams. Their reasoning was that less-frequent mammograms are just as effective in detecting cancer, and self-exams lead to increased and unnecessary doctors’ visits and procedures.

As you can imagine, this created quite a stir among doctors, especially those who have had patients between the ages of 40 and 50 with breast cancer detected by mammogram or self-exams. The data on mammogram effectiveness is conflicting, and women are left wondering about the ramifications of waiting until 50 for their first mammogram. Some physicians and women also wonder whether cost savings plays a role in the recommendations, though the USPSTF says it did not.

Mammograms are the standard of care in detecting breast cancer, and are the best tool we have for early detection. Its technology continues to improve, and currently, digital mammograms are in use in some areas. Most doctors continue to recommend self-exams and annual screenings for patients over 40, with high-risk patients starting mammograms earlier. The American Cancer Society also reviewed its guidelines last year, and it stands by the age of 40 to begin annual mammograms but neither recommended nor discouraged monthly self-exams.

Women under 50 tend to have denser breasts, making tumors difficult to see with mammograms, so for them self-exams are crucial. Most doctors will tell you that they’ve had many, many women find their own lumps during self-exams, and women know better than anyone else does what is normal for their breasts. Doing monthly self-exams is the best way to get to know your breasts so that if a lump does occur, you can detect it as soon as possible and treat it.

We encourage you to talk to your doctor about your individual risk factors and decide which mammogram schedule makes sense for you.

For more information on the USPSTF guidelines, as well as the ACOG revised guidelines for Pap smears, visit

Kicking Off Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Columbia, SC

breast cancer awarenessIn or near the Columbia, SC area? If so, join The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction team and other physicians and clinicians from all over South Carolina and the Green Hair Salon as we host our very own breast cancer awareness party.

During this fun-filled evening, you’ll have the opportunity to socialize with various physicians from across the state and ask questions about breast cancer, prevention, and breast reconstruction. Throughout the night, our team members, as well as other physicians, will speak about breast cancer and what you need to know to make smart, informed decisions about breast cancer.

Whether you know of someone who has faced breast cancer, or are currently fighting the battle with breast cancer, this event is for all women who are eager to educate themselves about their breast health options.

green hair salon

center for natural breast reconstruction

See below for more details on this event:

When: Monday, October 3, 2011, at 6 p.m.

Where: 2000 Park Street, Suite 104, Columbia, SC 29201

Food & Drink: Wine and cheese will be offered

Admission: FREE

RSVP appreciated, but not required: (866) 374-2627

We hope to see you there! And don’t forget, bring your questions.

Important Self-Exams Every Woman Should Perform

Image to the left taken from


Self-exams help you to detect changes in your body between visits to your doctor. Many lives have been saved due to diligent self-examination, and following are two self-exams you’ll want to perform regularly.

BSE or breast self-exam

Each woman has her own method of examining her breasts. Some do a systematic BSE monthly or bimonthly, while others keep an eye on their breasts by regularly feeling them in the shower or while lying in bed. Often, women ask their significant others to help them check, or they visit the doctor several times a year for a clinical exam.

While a regular BSE with a consistent technique is best, perfect technique is not as important as frequency and diligence. Sometimes, women stress needlessly about doing it correctly. As long as you feel the entire breast and overlap your motions, you’re doing it right. The goal of a BSE is to know what is normal for you and check for changes.

If you’re not sure whether you’re feeling the entire breast, suggests the following BSE routine:

  • Lie down and bend your arm behind your head to spread the breast tissue evenly over your chest, making it easier to examine.
  • Imagine your breast is divided in vertical lines from your underarm to breastbone, and use the finger pads of your other hand to feel for lumps in an up-and-down pattern along those lines. Move in dime-sized circles, slightly overlapping the previous line as you move up and down.
  • Use different levels of pressure at each spot so you feel all the breast tissue, especially if you have large breasts. You can feel the tissue close to the skin with light pressure, tissue in the upper half of the breast with medium pressure, and lower breast tissue with deeper pressure. There will be a ridge at the bottom of each breast, which is normal. If you have questions about pressure, talk with your doctor or nurse.
  • Examine the entire breast area, and then repeat the exam on your other breast.
  • Stand in front of a mirror, press your hands on your hips, and look at your breasts for changes in shape or size. Also look for rashes, redness, or dimpling.
  • Raise each arm slightly, and feel the underarm for lumps.

Some women may find it easier to examine their breasts in the shower, which is fine, as long as you are thorough—or add this routine to your shower exam. Current medical literature suggests that the above procedure is the most effective for finding lumps as soon as possible.

Skin exam

A regular skin exam will help you keep an eye on moles, freckles, and other spots that could become cancerous. It should be done at least once a month, and if you ask your doctor to do a full-body exam first, you’ll have a baseline. While it may sound daunting, after you’ve done a full skin exam a couple of times, it shouldn’t take more than 10–15 minutes.

Warning signs of skin cancer include a change in an existing mole or spot, or any growth or spot that . . .

  • Appears during adulthood.
  • Increases in size or thickness.
  • Changes in texture or in color—especially if it turns pearly, multicolored, brown, or black.
  • Has an irregular shape or outline.
  • Is bigger than a pencil eraser.
  • Continues to hurt, itch, scab, or bleed longer than three weeks.

If you see any of these signs, don’t wait or hope it goes away. See a doctor, preferably a dermatologist.

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