4 Things You Should Know About Breast Self-Exams
The technology used for mammograms gets better all the time. 3D mammograms give a more complete view of your breast tissue than ever before, and offer great chances at breast cancer detection. Nothing can compare to a mammogram’s role in your breast health — but you can help those efforts at home just by using your eyes and hands.
Breast self-exams are a convenient option for women of all ages. When used in combination with regular mammogram screenings they can increase your chances of early detection.
When to Do a Breast Self-Exam
Get into the routine of doing checks once a month. That’s frequent enough that you’ll gain breast awareness — learning the natural state of your breasts, how they feel and what they look like from all angles. You’ll become empowered to notice any changes that may happen to your body.
If you menstruate, wait a week after your period ends so your breast tissue can return to normal. The ideal time is when your breasts aren’t swollen or tender. Otherwise, pick a date you’ll remember like the first of the month. You might want to keep a breast awareness journal to jot down notes from your self-exam.
How to Do a Breast Self-Exam
Breast self-exams can be done in the comfort of your own home. Take your time with these four steps:
1. Hands on Your Hips
In front of a mirror, stand with your hands on your hips and look for any differences in your breasts. You’re looking for any changes in the color of your skin, or your breast's size and shape.
2. Arms Raised and Hands Together
While you’re still in front of the mirror, raise your arms above your head and place your hands together. Look for the same changes in your breasts. Check to see if your nipples have become inverted, or if there is fluid coming out of them.
3. Lying Down
Lie down on your bed or another comfortable flat surface. Keep two or three fingers together, and using the underside of your fingers firmly touch your breast in a small, circular motion.
Repeat this motion for your entire breast, using more pressure at the back of your breast where the tissue is deeper. You’re trying to feel for any lumps or abnormal density in your breast tissue.
4. Standing in the Shower
During your next shower, repeat the same motions as described above. Your wet skin will make things easier as you continue to search for any lumps or other abnormalities.
If you find an abnormality, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cancerous. A lot of breast lumps are benign, and aren’t a reason to panic. A breast self-exam is just that: a quick check without the use of medical equipment. Self-exams should never take the place of a proper screening, since mammograms are the best tools available for breast cancer detection.