Though breast cancer is rarely entirely preventable, you can take steps to ensure early detection of this condition. These include seeing your gynecologist regularly, having mammograms annually, and correctly doing a self-breast examination each month. To learn how to perform a breast exam on yourself correctly, read on.
Once a Month
According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, adult women of all ages should examine their breasts each month. Women who perform a self-breast exam and feel a lump detect approximately 40% of all diagnosed breast cancer cases each year. Adding regular breast examinations to your healthy routine is critical, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer.
How Should You Perform a Breast Self-Exam?
Like anything else, there’s a right way and a wrong way to perform a breast examination on yourself. Here are three tips to inform you how to do it right.
1. In the Shower
Using the pads of your index, middle, and ring fingers, check the whole breast and armpit area by pressing down with a light, then medium, then firm pressure. Thoroughly check both breasts, feeling for any thickening, lump, hardening, knot, or significant changes.
2. In the Mirror
Inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides, then raised overhead. Look for any changes in the nipples, dimpling on the skin, swelling, or in the shape or contour. Then, place your palms on your hips and press firmly, flexing your chest muscles. The right and left breasts are seldom identical, so look for changes like puckering or dimpling on one side or the other.
3. Lying Down
When you lie down, your breast tissue will spread evenly along the chest wall. For best effect, put a pillow under your right shoulder, then place your right arm behind your head. With your left hand, move the pads of your fingers in circular motions on your right breast, gently covering the entire breast and armpit.
Deliver a light, medium, and firm amount of pressure. Squeeze the nipple and check for any discharge or lumps, then repeat these steps for the left breast.
Don’t Rely on Breast Self-Exams Alone
Mammograms can detect tumors before a self-examination can, so it’s critical to screen for early detection. When combining medical checkups with annual mammograms and monthly self-examinations, women can promptly detect any medical issues for proper treatment.
If you find a lump during your self-examination, schedule an appointment with your physician, but relax and don’t panic. Fully 80% of lumps and irregularities are not cancerous, but your doctor can give you additional peace of mind. For more information on proper breast cancer screening, contact us today.