Early detection saves lives, so don’t forget to supplement your annual mammogram with monthly self-exams. Learn exactly how to detect abnormalities by following our self breast exam guidelines.
Breast cancer is the second most common and second most fatal cancer among American women. However, there are steps you can take to detect early warning signs. A breast self-exam is the best way to become familiar with what is normal for your breasts. This will help you notice any abnormalities that may signal breast cancer.
After the age of 40, the risk of breast cancer increases. However, women of all ages can decrease risks with early detection. Take charge of your health and arm yourself with the early detection techniques provided in the following self-breast exam guidelines:
- Lie Down
The American Cancer Society recently revised its breast self-exam guidelines to include lying down as the most efficient position in which to start your exam. Medical studies have confirmed that lying down increases the accuracy of breast exams. Gravity spreads your breast tissue over your chest wall, making it easier for you to detect any lumps or abnormalities.
- Move Your Fingers in Small Circles
Put your right arm behind your head, and use your left hand to make small, circular motions across your right breast, starting around your nipple and circling outwards. Press from your collarbone to your armpit, down to your abdomen, and over your cleavage using the pads of your middle three fingers. Follow a pattern that covers your entire breast and chest area.
You should apply different levels of pressure—alternating between light, medium, and firm as you move from surface tissue to deep tissue. When you reach deep tissue, it is normal to be able to feel your sternum and rib cage. Repeat these motions again with the opposite breast and hand.
- Move Your Fingers Up and Down
Next, feel up and down your breasts while applying different levels of pressure. Be sure to use hand movements that cover the entire breast area and check for any changes in size, shape, or texture of the breast area, including your nipples.
Note that it is normal to feel one or two uneven, bumpy ridges in the lower curve of your breast. However, any abnormal hard masses or lumps should be discussed with your gynecologist.
- Stand or Sit Up
Performing your breast self-exams from various angles and positions allows you to detect abnormalities that may otherwise be difficult to feel or see. During this step of your self-exam, you can use the same hand motions as before to inspect your breasts.
It is recommended to perform this part of the exam in the shower, while your skin is still slippery from soap and water. This makes any smaller lumps or abnormalities more noticeable by reducing the friction of your skin against your fingertips.
Women of all ages are at risk for breast cancer, which is why it is important to repeat your breast exam each month in addition to your annual mammography screening. If possible, try to avoid performing your self-exam when your breasts are swollen or tender due to hormonal fluctuations during your period.
Your self-exam will be more accurate and comfortable if you wait until your breasts return to their normal shape and size after your period. However, if you experience breast discomfort or pain that is localized or unusual, it is important to let your gynecologist know as soon as possible.
If you notice any lumps or changes in breast tissue during your breast self-exam, contact The Woman’s Clinic to schedule an appointment as soon as possible at 501-664-4131. Your Little Rock gynecologist will be happy to investigate any concerns you have.