Breast self-examination – How to do a breast self-exam at home
Breast self-examination is a free, simple and effective way of controlling the health of your breasts. It helps women to learn how their breasts normally look and how they feel on touch and if there are any changes, you can immediately notice them.
Experts recommend that every women after 20 years of age should perform breast self-examination every month, but they also remind us that the examination at home is just one way for early detection of breast changes that may lead to cancer. After 20 years of age, every woman should at least once in every three years have a breast examination by a doctor, and around the 40th year should have the first mammography examination.
When to perform a breast self-examination?
Breast self-examination should be performed several days after the menstrual bleeding.
During the menstrual cycle, the breast tissue changes, because it’s affected by the fluctuations of the hormone levels. With the beginning of the menstruation breast swelling decreases, and their sensitivity decreases too.
Therefore, it is best to perform a breast self-examination 7-10 days after the beginning of the menstruation.
Women who don’t have menstrual bleeding (due to menopause), should designate a specific date in the month when they will do the self-examination and stick to it.
How to do a breast self-examination in front of a mirror?
Stand in front of a big mirror so that you can look at both breasts at the same time. The room in which you are doing this should be well lit. Take off the clothes from the upper part of your body and observe your breasts. Don’t panic if your breasts aren’t equal in size because breasts in most women aren’t absolutely symmetrical. You need to examine the breasts, the nipples and the area of your underarms (armpits).
How to examine the breasts?
The visual examination of the breasts in front of the mirror should be performed in 4 positions:
– Let your hands be relaxed.
– Put your hands on your hips and press to tighten the chest muscles, then lean forward.
– Lift your arms above your head.
– Pull your shoulders backwards.
In each position you should watch closely if there is any change in size, shape or the position of your breasts or if there are any bumps or skin irritation. Look at your breasts from all sides and angles.
How to examine the nipples?
You should pay a special attention to the nipples. First, look to see if there is a change of their color, texture or direction. Then, using your index finger and your thumb press the area around the nipple to see if there is any discharge.
How to examine the armpits (axilla, underarms or oxters)?
What you need to do next is to examine the armpit area by touching it. Put your left hand on your hip. With the help of your index finger, middle finger and ring finger of your right hand start to do a small circular movements on the left armpit while applying a small and gentle pressure. If you can feel any changes as thickening of certain areas or a lump, consult your doctor.
How to do a breast self-examination in lying position?
Lie on your back, place a small pillow or a towel under your left shoulder and place your left hand behind your head. Start to do small circular movements with your index finger, middle and ring finger of your right hand over the entire surface of your left breast. Take your time and don’t miss a single spot. Then, repeat the procedure with the right breast.
Signs that you shouldn’t ignore:
– Changes of the size or the shape of your breast;
– Bumps (depressions or protruding parts) on your skin;
– Painful or painless lumps or thickening;
– Itching, swelling or redness in the area around the nipples;
– Discharge from the nipples (especially it is worrying if it is pus or blood);
– Inverted nipples.
Important! If you notice any of these signs, immediately see your doctor. However, don’t panic, because the appearance of the signs above may not be a symptom of breast cancer. For example, usually the lumps are cysts that often aren’t a threat to your health. But it’s good to visit your doctor if you have found any changes in your breasts.