Self Breast Exams
Early detection improves the chances that breast cancer can be treated successfully. One of the best and easiest ways to detect breast cancer is through a monthly breast self-exam. By knowing what is normal in your breasts by testing them every month, you will be able spot any suspicious areas more quickly. To help you become familiar with the ins and outs of breast self-exams, please review the guidelines below.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
A breast self-exam should be done by first standing in front of a mirror and looking at the breasts for changes in shape, contour, and size. Check for areas of redness or scales. Next, raise your hands up and place them behind your head, and them place your hands on your waist and flex your elbows and shoulders forward. During these positions, look for any visible changes.
Next, check your chest wall by sweeping your fingers down from your collarbone to your arms. You should also feel under your arms for any lumps.
After you have checked for visible changes, lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and placing your right arm behind your head.
Using the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand, feel around for any lumps in the right breast. Press firmly but gently. If you're not sure how hard to press, talk with a health care professional to learn the correct technique.
You can either move up and down or in a circular motion going outward from the nipple. Just make sure you cover the entire breast, chest and armpit area.
You're checking for:
- changes in appearance including puckering and dimples
- changes in size or shape
- pushed-in or misshapen nipples
Repeat this for the left breast.
If you feel any abnormalities in your breasts, or if there are any changes, see your health care provider as soon as possible. But don't panic; keep in mind that most lumps in the breast are not cancer, although any lump should always be examined by a qualified physician at once.