October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All is well and well as we spread awareness about the importance of regular checkups, but many women don’t know where to start.
How do you examine your breasts, and what are you looking for? Are lumps the only cause for concern?
Today, we’re going to introduce you to five steps to breast self-exam so you can make sure you get regular checkups and exactly.
Your first step is to find yourself a mirror. Stand in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips.
When standing in front of a mirror, there are a few things you should look for:
- Breasts are the usual size, shape and color
- Breasts have an even shape without any distortion or swelling
However, if you notice any of the following changes, make sure you talk to your doctor about them:
- Puffy skin
- The nipple is repositioned or the nipple is inverted (push in instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash or swelling
As always, none of this should cause you to panic, as a number of things can cause them, but it is essential to get it checked as soon as possible.
While this may seem simple, it’s an important part of the process. While standing in the same position in front of the mirror, raise your arms and look for similar changes.
When standing in the mirror, look for any signs of fluid draining from one or both nipples. This can be a yellow, milky, watery fluid or blood.
If you find any discharges, this is not cause for alarm. The discharge may be a side effect of hormones or a residual effect from breastfeeding. Whatever the reason, it’s important to check it out.
Next, lie down somewhere comfortable. Use your right hand to touch the left breast and then use the left hand to touch the right breast, using a few finger pads first gently and firmly. Keep your fingers flat and close together, and use a quarter-sized circular motion.
Make sure you cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side. This includes from the collarbone to the top of the abdomen and from the armpit to the cleavage.
Following a pattern can help ensure that you cover all of your breasts. It is recommended to start at the nipple, moving in larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. Some women also find it easier to move their fingers vertically along the row. Be sure to feel all the tissues from front to back of the breast: for skin and tissue just below, apply gentle pressure; use medium pressure to the tissue in the center of your breasts; apply force to the deep tissue of the back.
Once you have reached the deep tissue of your breast, you should be able to feel your ribcage.
The final step is to feel your breasts while standing or sitting up. You may find this easier in the shower or with a moisturizer. Using the same procedure described in Step 4, make sure your entire breast is covered.
Check your breasts at least once a month and on the same day. Avoid checking them during your menstrual cycle, as this can cause changes.
Examining your breasts in the shower can help many women, as you can feel the changes a lot easier.
If you find it difficult, you can ask your partner for help. No, this won’t help foreplay, but having someone check it out can take your worries away and make the process easier.
What to do if you find a lump or a concern?
There are many reasons why you might have a lump, a change in your breast, or a cause for concern. It is important not to go straight to cancer. Don’t panic!
Most women notice some lumps or some lumpy areas in their breasts, and the majority of breast lumps turn out to be benign. There are several causes of noncancerous breast lumps, including trauma, hormonal changes, and more.
It’s important to make sure you book appointment with your doctor as soon as possible, so they can allay your fears.