Many gynecology experts recommend that all women perform breast self-exams once per month. If you aren’t yet in an age range in which mammography is recommended, your breast self-exams and your gynecologist’s professional breast exams may facilitate the early detection of potential problems. However, even after you start having mammograms, you should continue to do self-exams. It’s important to note that many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not feel a lump. Regular self-exams let you become familiar with how your breasts generally look and feel, which can also support early detection.
In the Shower
A thorough exam involves checking yourself in the shower, in front of a mirror, and while lying down. Use a circular pattern to move the pads of your fingers around the entire area of each breast. Move from the outside to the inside, and also check your underarm area. Feel for any lumps, knots, or thickened areas.
In Front of the Mirror
Stand in front of a large mirror with your hands on your hips and your shoulders straight. Visually inspect your breasts and underarm areas for the following:
- Nipple inversion
- Nipple discharge (blood, or fluid that is yellowish, milky, or watery)
- Dimpling or “orange peel” appearance of the skin
- Changes in shape or size
After you’ve examined yourself with your hands on your hips, raise your arms above your head. Check yourself for the same changes in appearance.
While Lying on Your Bed
Lie down with your upper body unclothed. Put your right arm above your head, resting it on the bed. Use your left hand to examine your right breast. Then, put your left arm over your head, and use your right hand to examine your left breast. Remember to use small, circular motions. Some women prefer to check up and down their breasts, in vertical rows, while others prefer to feel around the perimeter of each breast, and move inward.
A gynecologist at Women’s Healthcare Associates will be happy to help you learn the steps of breast self-exams during your well-woman exam. Give us a call today at (713) 654-8128. Our Ob/Gyn clinic in Houston has a convenient location downtown, on the St. Joseph Parkway.
There always seems to be something in the news about breast self-exams (BSEs). Some people recommend that you check your breasts every month while others believe that BSEs most often lead to high anxiety and a rash of false positives. Regardless of which side you are on, there is no question that getting to know how your breasts look and feel is a good idea. By establishing a baseline, you will have a better chance of noticing when something is off.
At Women’s Healthcare Associates , we recommend that you get to know the architecture of your breasts, including which spots are lumpier than others, so you can identify when changes occur. To find out more information on BSEs, take a look at this simple guide or contact our excellent women’s healthcare clinic today!
A breast self-exam is a step-by-step approach that allows a woman to visually examine and feel her breasts to check for abnormalities. If you notice anything unusual, tell your doctor. In many cases, those changes are not cancer, but only your doctor can make that determination.
How to perform a BSE
It’s best to do a BSE after your monthly cycle when your breasts are not undergoing and changes due to hormones.
The mirror test
Visually examine your breasts in the mirror, looking for changes in size, shape, and position, as well as puckering, dimpling, sores, or discoloration.
Examine your nipples for any sores, peeling, or change in direction. Pull outward on each nipple to check for discharge.
Place your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles, turning from side to side to view the outer part of the breasts.
Bend forward in the mirror and roll your shoulders and elbows forward, tightening your chest muscles. Look for changes in shape or contour.
Clasp your hands behind your head and turn from side to side.
The shower test
Using hands slippery with soap, feel for changes in each breast. Make sure to check for lumps or thickening in your underarm areas and armpits.
Check for lumps above and below the collarbone.
Raise one arm behind your head and use the flat part of your fingers to press gently into the breast tissue following an up-and-down pattern and moving from bra line to collarbone. Cover the entire breast, then repeat on the other side.
The lying down test
Lie down and put one hand behind your head. Starting on the upper right portion of the breast, work clockwise using small circular motions, keeping your fingers together, flat, and in constant contact with your breast tissue. Repeat using smaller concentric circles, working toward the nipple until you have felt the entire breast.
Feel beneath the nipple for changes. Press nipple inward (should move easily).
Repeat on other side.
Important note: BSEs do not take the place of clinical breast exams or mammograms. If you find a lump, try not to panic (8 out of 10 lumps are benign). Simply schedule an appointment with your doctor and go from there.
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