The Importance of Breast Self-Exams

While you may get a regular breast exam at your gyno or yearly physical, performing breast self-exams at least once a month is ESSENTIAL. According to the Johns Hopkins Medical center, approximately 40% of diagnosed breast cancer is first detected by women who notice a “lump”. If you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel, you will be more aware of any potential changes that a health professional should know about.

 

So, how should you perform a self-exam, and what should you look for? The National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests that the first, easiest place to check is in the shower! Using your fingers, just move around each breast in a circular pattern, working from the outside to the center. Make sure you check the entire breast, as well as the armpit area. Here, you should be looking for any signs of lumps.

Next, check while standing in front of a mirror. Look at your breasts with your arms at your sides, and then again while lifting your arms overhead. Here, you’re looking for any changes in the physical appearance of your breasts (swelling, dimpling of the skin, changes in the nipples). Most women’s breasts don’t look exactly the same, so you’re only looking for really distinct differences that are out of the ordinary for you.

Finally, check while laying down before bed. When you’re laying down, your breast tissue is evenly spread out along your chest wall. Take turns lifting one arm above your head and checking the breast on that same side with your opposite hand. Here, you should again use circular motions and check for any sort of discharge or lumps.

Remember, even if you find a lump, most lumps are actually not cancerous! But, you should still call your doctor any time you have a concern! Stay safe and take care of yourself!