The importance of breast self-exams

“I just knew that something wasn't right,” said Julie Shackett. “It hadn't been there before and it shouldn't be there.” The lump turned out to be breast cancer. (SBG Photo)

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."

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."

The lump turned out to be breast cancer.

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?"

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 change in appearance, including dimpling of the skin, redness or fluid, and feel for changes like lumps, swelling or soreness.

And 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."

Julie didn't perform regular self-exams before, but she 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."

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