4 October 2010

Self Breast Exam 101

To kick off the month of October, and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we at CustomizedGirl.com wanted to share with you the importance of monthly self examinations, and how to do a self-check.

Beginning at the age of 20, most doctors recommend that women take time to do a self breast exam at home.  Women who regularly examine their breasts have a better idea of how they feel, and are more apt to notice changes-including lumps or masses that could be early signs of cancer.  The best time to do a self exam is about a week after your period when your breasts are not tender or swollen.  Or, if you no longer have a period, you can just set aside a specific date each month for a self-check.  Most of the time breast changes are not cancer, but if you do notice any changes you should consult your doctor.

What to Look For:

According to Women’s Health Resource, there are a few main changes that you should check for during a routine self breast examination.

  • Any change in shape or size
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Nipple pain or an inverted nipple
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
  • Scaly-textured nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)

Note that breasts can change from month-to-month, so not every change is cause for concern. If you do notice lumps or abnormalities, check for the same thing on the other breast.  If you notice the same thing on both, they are probably normal.  As your self-exam becomes more routine it will become easier to distinguish what is normal and what is not.

Self Breast Exam Tests

WebMD offers six different tests that can be used for your monthly self-breast exam.

Test 1: Using a mirror, inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides, with your hands on your hips, and with your arms raised while flexing your chest muscles.

Test 2: Look for any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling of skin, or appearance of the nipple. It is normal if your right and left breasts do not match exactly.

Test 3: Using the pads of your fingers, press firmly on your breast, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Move around your breast in a circular, up-and-down, or wedge pattern. Remember to use the same method every month. Check both breasts.

Test 4: There are three patterns you can use to examine your breast: the circular, the up-and-down, and the wedge patterns. Use the pattern that is easiest for you, and use the same pattern every month.

Test 5: Gently squeeze the nipple of each breast and report any discharge to your doctor immediately.

Test 6: Examine both breasts lying down. To examine the right breast, place a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right hand behind your head. Using the pads of your fingers, press firmly, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Use the same pattern you used while standing. Repeat for your left breast.

The key to surviving breast cancer is early detection, and by taking just a few minutes each month to give yourself a  breast exam you might be giving yourself the chance to get ahead of this disease.

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