Performing regular breast self-exams is crucial for maintaining optimal breast health. By conducting these exams monthly, you can become acquainted with the typical appearance and texture of your breasts, enabling you to identify any potential changes or irregularities that may occur. This guide will provide a step-by-step walkthrough of how to perform a thorough breast self-exam.
Breast Self-Exam Step-by-Step
Step 1: Setting the Scene
Choose a quiet, comfortable space where you can focus. You'll need a full-length mirror to observe any visible changes. Using some lotion or oil can aid in ensuring your fingers glide smoothly over your skin, making the tactile examination more effective.
Step 2: The Visual Check
Initially, stand in front of the mirror with your arms resting at your sides. Methodically observe the size, shape, and color of your breasts. Be on the lookout for any visible changes such as dimpling, puckering, or unusual redness. Nipples, too, need attention. Ensure they haven't changed position and check for any unexpected discharge.
Following this, raise your arms. This altered position might highlight changes in symmetry or contour. To finish the visual inspection, place your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles, which can emphasize any hidden dimples or shape changes.
Step 3: Hands-On Examination
For this step, lie down on a flat surface, like a bed, placing a pillow under your right shoulder. With your right arm resting behind your head, use the pads of your left hand's three middle fingers for a detailed check. Starting from the outer edges, move in small circles progressing towards the nipple. Make sure to use varying pressures to examine the different tissue depths. Ensure the entire breast and the armpit area are covered. The process is then repeated for the left breast.
Step 4: Nipple Focused Examination
Gently squeeze each nipple between your thumb and index finger. Be alert to any discharge, lump formations, or unusual textural changes.
Step 5: Commit to Monthly Exams
Consistency is key. Performing a breast self-exam once a month, perhaps post your menstrual cycle, can help you map out regular variations and detect anomalies.
Remember, a breast self-exam is not a substitute for regular mammograms or clinical breast exams by a healthcare professional. If you notice any unusual changes during your self-exam or have concerns about your breast health, make an appointment with your doctor.
By following these simple steps and performing regular breast self-exams, you can take an active role in maintaining your breast health and detecting any potential issues early on.
What To Do if You Feel a New Lump
If, during your breast self-exam, you discover a new lump or any other concerning changes in your breast tissue, it's natural to feel worried. However, it's important to remain calm and take the following steps:
- Don't Panic: Keep in mind that not all lumps are cancerous. Many benign conditions can cause lumps or changes in breast tissue. However, it's essential to have any new findings evaluated by a healthcare professional.
- Contact Your Healthcare Provider: Reach out to The Woman's Clinic at 501-664-4131 to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Inform them about the lump or changes you've noticed during your self-exam.
- Medical Evaluation: During your appointment, your gynecologist will perform a thorough examination and may order additional tests such as a mammogram or ultrasound to further assess the lump or changes in your breast tissue.
- Follow Medical Advice: Based on the results of the evaluation, your healthcare provider will provide guidance on the next steps. This may include monitoring the lump over time, ordering further diagnostic tests, or recommending a biopsy for a definitive diagnosis.
Remember that early detection is key when it comes to breast cancer treatment. By promptly seeking medical attention for any concerning findings, you are taking proactive steps toward maintaining your breast health.
What can Skin Changes or Thickenings Mean?
Skin changes or thickenings in the breast can be a cause for concern and may indicate various conditions. Here are some possible explanations for these changes:
- Inflammatory Breast Cancer: This rare and aggressive form of breast cancer can cause redness, swelling, and thickening of the skin on the breast. Other symptoms may include warmth, tenderness, and ridges or pitting similar to an orange peel.
- Mastitis: Mastitis is an infection that can occur in breastfeeding women. It can cause breast pain, redness, swelling, and a warm or hot sensation. The affected area may also feel firm or lumpy.
- Fat Necrosis: Fat necrosis is a condition where fatty tissue in the breast becomes damaged due to injury or trauma. It can lead to skin thickening or dimpling over time.
- Breast Abscess: A breast abscess is a pocket of pus that forms within the breast tissue as a result of infection. It can cause localized pain, redness, swelling, and skin changes around the affected area.
- Skin Infections: Skin infections such as cellulitis or folliculitis can also lead to skin changes or thickenings in the breast area.
Skin changes or thickenings in the breast can be a cause for concern and may indicate various conditions. Some possible explanations for these changes include inflammatory breast cancer, mastitis, fat necrosis, breast abscess, or skin infections such as cellulitis or folliculitis. However, it's important to remember that these are just potential causes and not definitive diagnoses. If you notice any skin changes or thickenings in your breasts during a self-exam, it's crucial to consult with your healthcare provider for further evaluation and diagnosis.
Don’t Forget to Schedule your Annual Exam
While monthly self-exams empower you to monitor your own health, they should work in tandem with annual clinical exams. Professional screenings offer a more comprehensive assessment. So, remain proactive, act on concerning changes promptly, and ensure you don't skip your scheduled annual check-ups. Your breast health, like all health, benefits from early detection and intervention.
1 of 8 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, which is why early detection is so important. Contact us today at (501) 664-4131, or fill out our online form, and we’ll call you! We’re here to support you on your wellness journey by providing you with complete, high-quality care both in-person and online. Schedule your appointment today!