It is often necessary to self-examine your breasts to look for any lumps or growth that might lead to a life-threatening condition. Breast cancer is a fatal disorder and that can be treated through various treatment modalities when identified during the initial stages. It is possible to identify the tumors through breast self-examination using certain methodologies which are described briefly here.
What is a Breast Self-Exam?
Breast self-exam is a way to look and check at home for any changes that happen in your breast by yourself. The changes include lumps, any surface texture changes such as thickening, color change, temperature change, skin irritation, rashes, change in the size and shape of the breast and nipple, etc., If you feel any of these changes then it is necessary to get a consultation with the doctor for further treatment if its confirmed as a breast cancer through many diagnostic methods.
How to Self-examine Breast?
You have to stick on to certain procedures to self-examine your breast for correct analysis of this condition. Let’s have a look into it one by one and know how to self-examine for breast cancer.
We are going to apply pressure on the breasts to find out the presence of any lump. The American Cancer Society recommends the usage of three different kinds of pressure based on the intensity which helps you to find the changes at different levels of your breast tissue.
- Light pressure helps to examine the tissue which is closest to the skin
- Medium pressure aids to feel a little deeper tissue than the one which is mentioned above.
- Firm pressure makes you feel the tissue even deeper that is closest to the chest wall.
Method 1: In front of the mirror
Stand in front of the large mirror in an illuminated room. Undress till the waist. Now, look at your breasts to see for equal shape and size. Mostly, it won’t be! Don’t worry! Most female’s breasts aren’t equal. Now look for any noted changes in the size, shape, position, color change, skin texture changes, indentations on the breast surface, any sores, etc.,
- Now check for the presence of lumps. Place your hands on the hips and press down with pressure down strongly and this tightens the chest muscles beneath your breasts. Have a side to side turn and see to the outer part of your breasts.
- With the same position, have a forward bend towards the mirror with a forward rolling off your shoulders and elbows to screw up the chest muscles. This position makes your breast to fall forward. Inspect your breasts for any change in the shape or contour.
Now see to the changes in nipple which include shape and size, sores, direction, any nipple discharge, peeling, inward or retracted nipples, etc.,
Use the thumb and index finger to check for any fluid discharge from nipples. Squeeze the nipple from the areola region and look for any discharge and repeat it on the other breast.
Method 2: In the shower
This method is done to feel the changes in your breast when the hands are in a slippery texture with soap and water. So do this procedure when you are in the shower.
- Keep the right hand on your hip and place the left hand on the right armpit and look for any lumps or thickening in the underarm area. Repeat this procedure on the left side.
- Now check for the lumps or thickening above and below your collarbone. Clasp your head with one arm and this spreads out the breast tissue. Using the fingers of the other hand give a gentle press by following an up-and-down pattern from the base of your breast to collarbone. Follow these until you cover the entire breast. Repeat it on the other side.
Method 3: By lying down
Check for any lumps in the breast by lying down. Place a small pillow under your left shoulder and place your left hand behind the head. Now keep the right-hand fingers together on your left breast on the upper outer areas near your armpit.
Give a gentle pressure and move it around the breast in a circular motion thereby covering the outer areas of the breast. When this circle is completed, move an inch towards the nipple and continue with the circular motion. Repeat this procedure until the entire breast is covered and see to the presence of lumps over there. You can also do this method by applying a body lotion which gives you a slippery texture and helps you to identify the lumps easily.
Now check the areas behind and around the nipple. Gently press the nipple in an inward direction so that it should move easily. Also, place the fingers on top of the nipple and feel for any changes over there.
What to do after finding a lump?
After self-examining your breast, if you notice any lump/lumps then don’t panic and tensed. Stay cool and relaxed. Not all lumps need to be a cancerous condition. It might be an ordinary one. You need to do the biopsy for correct interpretation. So see to the health care provider for further clarification.
When the breast self-examination should be done?
You should do this self-examination regularly at about the age of 20. This is done to detect the breast changes at an earlier stage and get it treated. Perform this procedure every month throughout your life. Continue this self-examination during pregnancy and even after menopause.
Also be aware of the breast swelling that happens during the menstruation and any hormonal fluctuations, etc., Don’t be confused with that. Better get a piece of advice from your physician regarding this.
Apart from this self-examination, it is mandatory to have a mammography every three years for 20 and 30 years of women and by every year after crossing 40. This is done to interpret any issues at an early stage and to resolve the condition easily without facing any life-threatening consequences.