What Is a Self-Examination of Your Breasts?
» Breast self-examination is a screening technique that can be performed at home to check whether or not you have breast lumps
A breast self-examination can help you screen for:
- Other breast abnormalities
There was a time when a breast self-exam was thought to be a good technique for screening for breast cancer. However, now we use numerous other techniques, like regular mammograms, which are considered to be more effective. Nevertheless, breast self-exams are helpful in familiarizing yourself with the shape, size, and texture of your breasts. The knowledge you can get this way can help you if you feel certain changes and cannot determine whether they are normal or abnormal.
Whatever abnormality you feel in your breast, you should consult your medical advisor. Even if there is anything unusual you observe, you should not despair, because, in most cases, these changes are not cancer. Anyway, your healthcare provider will help you determine the real reason for the changes.
If you have any questions – you can ask our Pro-fessionals.
How You Should Prepare for a Breast Self-Examination
The optimal time to conduct a breast self-exam is several days after your menstrual cycle finishes. As a rule, hormonal changes influence the size and feeling of your breasts, and that is why it is recommended to perform the examination when your breasts return to their normal state.
If a woman does not menstruate, she should select a certain day to conduct the exam; for example, one of the first days of each month.
It is recommended to keep records of your self-exams. It will help you track any changes you have observed in your breasts.
How a Breast Self-Exam should be Conducted
In order to conduct a self-examination, you should carry out the steps below:
Near the mirror:
- You will need a large mirror and good lighting. Get undressed from the waist up and stand in front of the mirror. Make a visual examination of your breasts. If their shape and size are not absolutely equal, it is not a problem, but rather a common situation for many women. Relax your arms by your sides and check your breasts for any changes in position, shape, size, or any changes on the breast skin. Pay attention to dimpling, puckering, sores, or discoloration, if any.
- Examine your nipples and check for any peeling, sores, or direction changes.
- Keeping your hands on your hips, press your hands down strongly to tighten the muscles beneath your breasts. Preserving this position, turn left and right to inspect the outer part of each breast.
- Bend forward and move your shoulders and elbows forward to tighten the muscles in your chest. During this exercise, your breasts will also bend forward. Check whether there are any changes in their contour or shape.
- Clasp your hands behind your head and push them forward. Turn left and right to observe your breasts’ outer parts. Make sure to check the border underneath the breasts. If needed, raise your breast with your hand.
- You should also inspect your nipples for discharge. Put your fingers around the nipple and pull outward. Check if there is any discharge, then repeat with the other breast.
- Feel whether there are any changes in the breasts. You can do it with your hands covered with soap and water, therefore slippery. Check if you can feel any thickening or lumps in your underarm area. You can check your left armpit with your right hand while your left hand is placed on your hip, and vice versa.
- Check the area below and above your collarbone for lumps or thickenings on both sides.
- While your hands are soapy, put one arm behind your head in a way that the breast tissue becomes spread out. Using the fingers on the other hand, press slightly into the breast. Move according to an up-and-down pattern, from lower line to collarbone. Proceed to cover the entire breast with this technique. Do the same with the other breast.
- When lying down, put a small pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right hand behind your head and put your left hand on the upper area of your right breast. Keep your fingers flat and hold them together. You can apply body lotion to make it easier.
- Start making small circular motions with your hand and move gradually around your breast. You should make a full circle, finishing right where you have started. Your fingers should stay flat and always stay in contact with the skin of your breast. When you have completed a circle, you should move 1-inch closer to the nipple and make another circle. Follow the described scheme until you have covered the entire breast. You should cover all the areas, including the upper outer parts that extend to your armpit.
- Put your fingers on top of your nipple. Hold your fingers flat. Feel if there are any changes beneath the nipple. Press your nipple gently inward. Normally, it should move easily.
- Do the same to your other breast. Make sure to check the entire breast, including the upper area, nearest to the armpit.
If You Detect a Lump
First of all, you should not panic. There could be multiple reasons for it other than cancer. However, you are advised to consult your health advisor if you find any new breast changes, including:
- An area that differs from other areas on both breasts
- A thickening or lump located in the breast that stays there through your menstrual cycle
- Altered shape, contour, or size of the breast
- A lump or unknown mass
- An area under the skin that resembles a marble
- Skin changes on your breast or nipple, such as puckered, dimpled, inflamed, or scaly skin
- Discharge from the nipples that is bloody or clear
- Red skin on the breast or nipple