As one of the most common cancers currently plaguing women, it’s important that you perform regular checks to become familiar with what your breast normally feels like and detect any changes before they develop into more serious lumps. Monthly self breast exams are one option that you can begin once you enter your 20s and are best conducted a week after your period when your breasts are no longer swollen or tender.
1. Start by inspecting your breasts in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides, with your hands at your hips, and then with your arms raised while flexing your chest muscles.
2. Your breasts do not need to match each other perfectly, but do take note of any changes in the nipples, breast shape, swelling, pain, redness or dimpling of the skin.
3. Place your right arm behind your head and firmly run the pads of the three middle fingers in your left hand in an up-and-down circular motion, or wedge pattern (start at the outer edges of your breast, work your fingers toward the nipple and then back out). Make sure your fingers stay in continuous contact with the breast and that you cover the entire area as well as the armpit and collarbone. Do the same on the left breast with your right hand. Perform the same routine for every exam.
4. Squeeze each nipple to check for discharge other than breast milk.
5. Perform the exam while lying down. With a pillow under your right shoulder and your right hand behind your head, examine the right breast by firmly pressing the pads of your fingers over the entire breast area and armpit in the same motion as you did earlier. Remove the pillow and place under your left shoulder to repeat on the left side.
If you notice any changes, report them to your doctor immediately. Just remember that most of the time these changes are not breast cancer, but it’s always best to side with caution.