In 2016, The American Breast Cancer Society concluded that after a breast exam, 61,000 new cases of breast cancer were in the early stages. As a result, women of all ages should complete self-exams at least once a month. There is more than one way to do a breast self-examination, and if done correctly, it can be a lifesaving tool.
The Mirror Exam
A visual inspection is an opportunity to look for any abnormalities in the breast. A person who chooses to do a mirror breast exam should complete the following steps:
– Look at the breasts from a front and side view
– Raise arms overhead and look for changes in shape, swelling, changes in the nipple, and skin dimples
– Press firmly against hips and flex chest muscles in search for skin dimples or unexplained lumps
Despite popular belief, women’s breasts aren’t identical—this gives women a chance to look for puckering or odd changes on either side of their breasts.
The Shower Exam
Performing a shower exam is a convenient way to check for breast abnormalities. Starting from the outside and working their way towards the center, women should move around the whole breast with the pads of their fingers. During this breast exam, women should also check around the armpits and be cognizant of any hardened lumps or knots.
The Lying Down Method
The lying down method allows the breast tissue to spread evenly along the chest—which makes for a more effective and methodical examination. Women who opt for this type of self-examination should place a pillow underneath the shoulder and raise the hand above the head that corresponds with the breast they are examining.
Using the opposite hand, it’s important to use the pads of the finger and move in a circular motion over the armpit and breast area. Afterward, examine the nipple by gently squeezing around the areola and checking for bumps and discharge.
The Importance of Self-Examination
Every woman knows their body and can tell when something is different. A self-examination will help identify anything unusual about a person’s breast. As a general rule of thumb, if there’s an unexplainable change in the breasts, then it’s time to make an appointment with a physician. It’s also imperative that regular mammograms are completed to make sure that the breasts are in great shape and health.