The Importance of Breast Self-Exams

October is a month that peaks spooky season, Halloween parties, and pumpkin patch photoshoots. Much more so, aside from spooky season and fall, October is a highly important month as it highlights mental health awareness and breast cancer awareness

As a naive child, I always thought of breast cancer as a wavering sickness that I may likely not be diagnosed with. However, as I grew older and learned more about the disease, I realized that the chances were actually high. In fact, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “one in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.” Additionally, they also claim that every two minutes, a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States alone. 

Related: 6 Brands to Support this Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October may be deemed as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but this shouldn’t be the only time you stop to think of your breasts, your health, or even your family’s health history. 

Although there is no absolute way to prevent breast cancer, the one thing we can all do without spending money on doctor’s appointments and genetic screenings is to perform breast self-exams. Getting an early diagnosis is vital for treating and lowering the cost of life breast cancer yields which is why the National Breast Cancer Foundation supports breast self-exams.

To get you in the loop of how to properly perform a breast self-exam, I have listed the steps on how to properly perform a breast self-exam.

Related: How to Check Your Breasts For Breast Cancer

1. Look at them

The first and easiest step is to look at your breasts and feel for any bumps, lumps, and changes. To do so, stand in front of a mirror, with your back and shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. According to the NCF, when looking at your breasts, be sure to look for some of these alarming changes:

1. Dimpling or bulging skin

2. Nipples that have changed positions or are pushed inward

3. Redness, soreness, or swelling

Via the Breast Cancer Organization

After scanning your breasts, lift up your arms, and straighten them out to be directly above your head. You should now be looking for any signs of fluid coming out of your nipples. Any changes in breast or nipple appearance should be recorded and immediately discussed with a health specialist. 

Via the Breast Cancer Organization

2. Feel them

After looking at your breasts, the next step is to feel them for any changes. This step is best done when lying down to ensure that no lumps are being weighed on when standing up. In bed, you would need to use your left hand to feel your right breast and your right hand for your left breast. Starting with clockwise motions, use your three fingers closed together, to firmly but carefully circle around the breast. Make sure that you are covering from top to bottom, and left to right, even reaching your collarbones and your armpits.

Via the Breast Cancer Organization

3. Feel some more

If you are not comfortable doing the exam in bed, some women find it easier to conduct the exam standing up in the shower since the water eases the movement of their fingers. In the shower, stand up and raise the arm on the side of the breast you’re examining. Feel your breasts by using the same movements in step two, making sure to cover the entire breast in the process. 

Via the Breast Cancer Organization

4. Conduct a self-exam every month

Conducting a breast self-exam every month is vital to becoming more familiar with your breasts. Once you are familiar with how your breasts normally feel like, conducting the test can come in three different ways:

​1. In front of a mirror

2. Lying down

3. In the shower

6. Journal your findings

Keeping track of your breast’s monthly health should be a routine. This will help make sure that you can easily distinguish your normal breast health to any changes in your health. 

Now, whichever method you choose to go with, it’s important to remember that conducting these breast self-exams only takes up to five minutes of your month. Now, if you do happen to find unusual lumps or changes in your breasts, don’t panic, but remember to get some answers. Contact a health professional and let them know about what signs you’ve seen showed up in your monthly exam. 

For additional resources and help, please visit the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation at https://www.vbcf.org/

Related: Breast Cancer Awareness Month is Important for All of Us