Although we may only dedicate one month a year to breast cancer, that doesn’t mean breast exams should only be administered once a year. In fact, self-given breast exams should be done at least once a month. Nearly 40% of breast cancer was first detected by women noticing a change in their breast(s). Here, we go through the proper way to do a self-administered breast exam.
1) Check your breast with your hands on your hips & your hands above your head
Standing in front of a mirror, remove your bra and place both hands on your hips. Check to make sure your breasts are their normal shape, size and color, with no distortion or swelling. Any change should be shown to a doctor as soon as possible. Changes can include:
- Any visible bulging, lumps, puckering or dimpling on the breasts.
- Changes to the nipple, such as displacement or inverted nipples.
- Any redness, soreness, swelling, or rashes.
Next, raise your hands above your head and look for the same symptoms. Be sure to look under your breast, as well. When raising your arms, check to see if either one or both of your nipples are excreting any fluids (such as watery, yellow, or milky fluids, or blood). If so, consult a doctor ASAP.
2) Conduct a self-examination.
While lying down, place a pillow under your right arm and lift your right arm over your head while using your left hand to feel your right breast. Using the pads of three fingers, move them in a tight circular motion to feel your breast. Keep your fingers flat and pressed together, applying down on your breast firmly and softly. Move your fingers all along your entire breast, from up to down and side to side, including inside and around the armpit. You should be feeling for any abnormal lumps, knots, thickening, or indents. Squeeze the nipple to check for any discharge. To ensure maximum coverage, try either moving your fingers up and down your breast, in rows, or starting from the nipple and circling outwards. The deeper the breast tissue, the more pressure should be applied. When done, switch the pillow to the left side, lifting the left arm and feeling the left breast with your right hand.
3) Examine yourself in the shower.
Checking your breast in the shower is a great way to move your fingers around your breast smoothly. Lifting the right arm, use the left hand to check the right breast. Use the instructions in step 2. Repeat with left breast.
Of course, you should always be checked by a doctor and receive mammograms every year, regardless of whether or not you are seeing any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. For more information, visit the sites down below:
(Image Sources: breastcancer.org)