When was the last time you performed a breast self-exam? As an adult, it’s incredibly important for women to know how to perform their own breast self-examinations and do it regularly. Your doctor or your OBGYN has probably shown you how to perform your own breast self-exam, but if they haven’t all you have to do is ask. After all, this simple exam could just save your life.
Here’s how to perform your own breast self-exam,
- Stand in front of the mirror with your hands on your hips. You want to look for any swelling or changes in your breasts' shape, size, or color. Look for any dimpling in the skin, if the nipples are inverted or if there is any redness, tenderness, or swelling. Once this is complete, you will raise your arms and look for the same changes.
- For the next part of your breast self-exam, you will want to lie down. You will use your opposite hand to feel your breast using a firm circular motion with two or three fingers. Perform this motion on all areas of the breast including the sides and armpits all the way to the collarbone.
- You should also perform the same circular motion on your breast while sitting (you can also stand). Raise one arm at a time and use your opposite hand to check the breast. A good time to do this is when you are in the shower.
It’s a good idea for all women to perform these self-exams about once a month. This will allow you to get used to your breast tissue and better be able to pinpoint subtle changes in the shape, size, or color of your breasts that could indicate a problem.
If You Find a Lump
If you find a lump, it’s important not to panic. Breast tissue can be quite dense, depending on the person and it is possible for tissue to feel lumpier than usual due to hormonal changes. Many lumps end up being benign. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore it. If you do find a lump in your breast it’s worth it to see a doctor for your own peace of mind. Your primary care doctor or your gynecologist is a good person to call if you find a lump or changes in your breasts that have you concerned.
While breast self-exams are critical for women of all ages, it’s also important that you speak with your doctor about when you should start getting mammograms to screen for breast cancer. Women with a family history of breast cancer may wish to get screened earlier, so talk with your doctor.