Regular self-examinations of your breasts can catch cancer before it spreads. Every woman should know the proper way to perform a breast self-exam, and should do the exam monthly. When you familiarize yourself with your breasts, it is easier to identify any changes that may happen.
Breast cancer symptoms are often unnoticeable without a professional medical screening. However, some symptoms can be identified early. Being proactive about the health of your breasts can help catch the signs before cancer spreads.
The following breast self exam guidelines are provided to help you maintain a regular routine of monthly breast exams at home. Talk to your doctors as soon as possible, if you discover any changes in or around your breasts, such as:
- A lump in your breast. Not all lumps are cancerous, but all lumps should be investigated by your healthcare provider.
- Unexplained changes in the shape or size of your breast
- Swelling in the breast
- Shrinkage of the breast
- Dimpling somewhere on the breast
- Change in symmetry of the breasts
- Scaly, swollen, or red skin on the breast, nipple, or areola
- Tenderness in the breast
- Thickening of tissue in or around the breast area or underarm
- Change in nipple appearance
- Nipple inverted or turned slightly inward
- Nipple discharge (especially a clear or bloody discharge)
Monthly Self-Examination of Your Breasts
All women should perform breast self-exams monthly, as a minimum. Numerous diagnosed breast cancers have been detected by women who have discovered a lump during breast self-exams. Although a mammogram helps detect cancer before a lump can be felt, breast self-exams familiarize you with the details of your breasts’ appearance and sensations. This is how to perform a breast self-exam:
1. Standing in Front of a Mirror — With your arms at your sides, visually examine your breasts. Then, raise both arms over your head. Inspect for any contour changes, swelling, skin dimpling, or changes in nipples. And then, put your hands on your hips, and flex your chest muscles. Most women’s breasts do not match exactly. What you are looking for is any puckering, dimpling, or other changes, on either breast.
2. While Lying Down — Breast tissue spreads evenly across the wall of the chest when you are lying down, allowing a different opportunity for examination. Place a pillow under one shoulder, and put your arm behind your head. Using your other hand, move in small circular motions, lightly pressing with the pads of your fingers, until you examine the entire breast and surrounding area and armpit. Repeat this process using medium, and then firm pressure. To check for nipple lumps or discharge, squeeze the nipple. Repeat this process for your other breast.
If you discover a lump in your breast, contact your doctor for an appointment as soon as possible. But, there is no need to panic. The vast majority (80%) of breast lumps are not cancerous.
If you would like more information about breast cancer risk factors or to make an appointment to see a Little Rock OBGYN, contact call the Women’s Clinic by calling (501) 664-4131, or visit our website here.