While the most effective way to check for Breast Cancer is through a mammogram and a clinical breast exam, a self-examination can be conducted at the convenience of your home as a preliminary check. When detected in early stages, chances of survival against the breast cancer are significantly higher.
What Is A Breast Self-Examination?
A breast self-examination is a check-up that a woman does herself at home to check for any changes that may indicate the development of breast cancer. It is a preliminary check that involves seeing and feeling the breast area for any unusual formations or changes in tissue.
The ideal time for conducting a self-examination every month is about 3-5 days after you get your period. This examination should be performed at least once in every six months, from early twenties. If a woman has passed menopause, it is recommended that she conduct the examination on the same day each month.
How Do I Perform It?
If you choose to do a breast self-exam, follow the 5 simple steps described below:
- Stand in front of a mirror with hands on hips and tighten chest muscles beneath breasts. Inspect outer breast area.What to look for:
Breasts: Changes in shape or contour.
Nipples: Sores, peeling or change in direction.
Skin: Puckering, dimpling, sores or discoloration.
- Next, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
- Place thumb and forefinger on tissue around nipples and pull outward. Check for fluid discharge from either nipple. This could be blood or a watery, milky or yellow fluid.
- Lie down and use your right hand to feel your left breast. In a circular motion with a firm, smooth touch, keep the fingers flat and use the first few finger pads to cover the entire breast from top to bottom (from collarbone to top of abdomen) and side to side (from armpit to cleavage). You may follow a circular pattern, starting from nipple and moving outward or a vertical pattern, moving your fingers up and down vertically in rows. Feel all the tissue from front to back of breasts. Use:
Light pressure for the skin and tissue just beneath breasts.
Medium pressure for tissue in the middle of breasts.
Firm pressure for deep tissue in the back (you should be able to feel your ribcage).
- Finally, feel breasts while standing or sitting. Many women find it easiest when their skin is wet and slippery, and do this in the shower. Cover your entire breast using the instructions in step 4.
What If I Find a Lump?
- If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:
Breasts: Any abnormal changes in shape or contour.
Nipples: Look for sores, peeling, inversion or change in position.
Skin: Look for puckering, dimpling, bulging, sores or discoloration.