A proactive approach is always a good thing and conducting a breast exam at home is easy, comfortable and could alert you to a potential problem
Breastcancer.org believes that breast self-examination is a useful and essential screening strategy, especially when used in combination with regular physical exams by a doctor and mammography. About 20% of the time, breast cancers are found by physical examination rather than by mammography, and Breastcancer.org recommends that all women routinely perform breast self-exams as part of their overall breast cancer screening strategy.
- Know what to look for. Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Your breasts should be their usual size, shape, and colour, and they should be evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling.
- Get used to how your breasts feel at different times of the month. This can change during your menstrual cycle, and knowing your breast shape and size will avoid unnecessary alarm, or could bring any abnormality to your attention.
- Do manual breast self-examinations. There are different ways to perform a self-exam. You can do the examination lying down – in this position the breast tissue is more spread out, and thinner and easier to feel. Or you can perform one in the shower, where the soap and water can help your fingers move more smoothly over your breast skin.
- Know what to feel for. Lie flat and place your right hand behind your head. Using the first three fingers of your left hand, feel the breast tissue on your right breast. Be sure to use the pads of the fingers, not just the very tips. Feel for anything that feels hard and round. Next, start at your armpit area and work your way towards the centre of each breast. Move across to the middle of your body until you only feel the breastbone. Make sure you use three different levels of pressure to feel the tissue: light pressure at the top for tissue just under the skin, medium pressure to check tissue in the middle of the breast, and deeper pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest wall. Make sure to apply each pressure level to each area before moving on. Do this with both breasts. Finally, you should squeeze each nipple gently to check for discharge.
- Take action. If you feel something unusual, or see something different, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. Don’t delay.
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