The 5 Steps Of A Breast Self ExamBreast self exam is an important step in detecting breast cancer early. And, studies have shown that early detection of breast cancer is vital in curing and improving the 5-year survival rate among patients.
However, many women find this procedure to be tedious or they do not know how to do it. But, doctors stress the importance of breast self exams as they allow the woman to know how her breasts feel and appear under normal circumstances. Then, any changes can be easily detected.
Women should make it a point to conduct a self examination of their breasts once a month. This examination should be conducted a few days after the menstrual period ends when breasts are least tender and swollen. In case, the women no longer get their periods, they should choose a fixed day in a month that they can easily remember.
Most women have lumps or lumpy regions in the breast. Majority of the lumps are non-cancerous. So, do not panic if you happen to feel a lump in your breast. Different regions of the breast have different feel. The upper and outer portion of the breast that is close to the armpit will have lumps and bumps. The lower portion will feel like beach scattered with pebbles, while the area just under the nipple might feel like grainy.
It is important that you get to know the different areas of your breasts so that that anything that feels abnormal will stand out immediately and you can bring it to your doctor's attention. Also, remember a breast self examination can help you prevent unnecessary biopsies.
Here are the 5 steps of a breast self exam:
- Start with checking your breasts in the mirror. This will give you an idea about their shape, size and color. You should also be looking to see whether the breasts are shaped evenly without any swelling or distortion. In case there is dimpling or puckering of the skin, the nipple has changed position or there is swelling, rash or redness, you should immediately inform your doctor.
- Now raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes as what you were looking for when doing the check in the mirror.
- Now go back to the mirror and gently squeeze your nipple using your fore finger and thumb to see whether any discharge comes out. The discharge can be yellow or milky in color or in the form of blood.
- Lie down comfortably on your bed and use your right hand for your left breast and left hand for the right one. Keep your fingers flat together and touch your breast firmly. Make sure you feel all the regions, right from the collarbone to the abdomen and from the sternum to the armpit. Make sure the touch initially is soft but firm. Then increase the pressure to feel the breast tissue that is situated deeper. You can use circular motion to cover all the areas of the breast starting at the nipple. Or, you can move your fingers vertically as though you are mowing a lawn.
- The last step in the breast self examination involves checking the breast while sitting or standing. You need to use the same motions and movements like the ones used in the previous step. Many women prefer to do this step while taking a shower as it is easier to feel the breast while they are wet.