Self breast exams should be as routine as putting on your seatbelt or brushing your teeth. With the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer, this should be a no-brainer but for many women it’s not. The reasons are many but some are uncomfortable touching themselves, some are unsure of what they are feeling while some are afraid they’ll actually find something wrong. Regardless of the reason, start doing it routinely and THEN try to figure out why it’s been difficult for you. So here are a few tips to get things started.
First you should stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips and look for:
- Even breasts without swelling or distortions
- Both breasts that have roughly the same size, shape and color
If you notice that one nipple seems to point in a different direction than the other or that it looks inverted or pointed inwards or that it is a different color or shape then tell your doctor.
Next, raise your arms above your head and look again in the mirror. Do you notice any changes with shape, symmetry, nipple distortions as mentioned before? Remember too that any fluid coming out of your nipple is not normal.
Next lie flat on your back and use two or three fingers on one hand to press against your breast and push in a circular motion about the size of a quarter. Do this repeatedly over all of your breast. Press hard enough to feel your chest wall and ribs if you can. Make a note of where you feel any bumps or lumps and tell your your doctor if you do. There are lots a bumps that aren’t cancer but a few that are so let your doctor know.
It’s best to do your exam at the same time every month like the first day of your period or the last day of your period. Susan B. Komen has a Breast Self Awareness Interactive Tool that you may find useful.
If you want to start at the beginning of the series, go here.
If you have any further questions feel free to contact Houston OBGYN Dr. Lisa Otey for more information or an appointment.