How to Perform a Self-Breast Exam

How to Perform a Self Breast Exam

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These Easy Tips Could Help Early Detection

We all know we have to be the advocates of our health and well-being. We are in control of what we eat, how much we exercise, and how much sleep we get each night. But taking a look at how our body reacts to all of those factors like changes in our mood, emotions and physical self are all just as important. Understanding your family’s health history is an important tool regarding your current health and future well being.

Breast cancer is one of the leading diseases women face worldwide. Getting to know your breasts, and recognizing changes in them early, is vital to good breast health. Doing monthly self breast exams can sound easy, but remembering to do them and how to do them sometimes can be a thought in the back of your head. We all lead busy lives and taking a few minutes each month to do an exam can fall to the wayside.

Start by marking a day on your calendar each month as a reminder. Important things in life should be scheduled, just like everything else. Schedule your self-exam day to be three to five days after the beginning of your menstrual cycle — your breasts will be less tender and inflamed than the days prior. If you have gone through menopause, try and schedule your exam on the same day each month.

There are several steps to take when doing a self-breast exam. These steps are so you can become comfortable with the feel, shape and appearance of your breasts, and to notice any changes that may occur:

1. Start by standing in front of a mirror

Relax your arms to your sides and look at each breast. Notice their shape, skin texture, and if they are relatively the same size. You are looking for smooth skin, no visible lumps, unusual bumps or skin rippling and if there is a noticeable size difference.

Also take note of nipple color, size and texture. Look for changes of the nipples like discoloration, if one or both have become inverted or a change in position. If changes occurred from one month to the next, consult your doctor.

2. Still in front of the mirror, raise your arms above your head and interlock your fingers

Check for the same signs as noted in step one. Month by month, you will become very familiar with the appearance of your breasts.

3. Now, keeping one hand above your head, use the pads of your fingers to start examining the breast on the opposite side

Making small circular movements with your fingers, you can work from the nipple in a concentric motion until you reach the outer edges of your breast. This includes the tissue that leads into the armpit and below the breast until you can feel your rib cage.

You can also examine with circular motions in either vertical or horizontal lines making sure to cover the entire breast tissue. Press with medium pressure to feel the texture of the breast tissue, but not with a heavy hand to cause discomfort. Do so for both breasts. If you notice any pain or any concerning lumps, contact your doctor.

4. Lastly, lay down with a pillow below your shoulders

Follow the same steps as in step three with each breast. Also examine the nipple and take note of any discharge or tenderness.

If you notice a change in your breasts or detect a lump, contact your doctor to get it examined. More often than not, any lumps you find will be non-cancerous.

As you age, your breasts will change. Take into consideration if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, entering menopause, or have having irregular cycles when examining your breast. All of these factors can change your breasts’ feel and appearance.

After age 50, your doctor will recommend routine mammograms. This is not to scare you, but to detect lumps much sooner than a self-exam. Mammograms can detect lumps much smaller than those that can be felt by hand. Ultrasounds are also a test your doctor may recommend, especially if they detect something unusual. If a lump is found to be a cyst as opposed to cancer, your doctor may recommend draining it to release any pain from pressure you may be feeling.

Early detection and getting to know your body is key to a healthy future with not only your breasts, but every part of your body.