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A Beginner’s Guide to a Breast Self-Exam

women's health servicesChances are you may know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Whether it is a friend or a family member who has been affected, breast cancer is something that touches all of our hearts.

For some cases, breast cancer can be prevented by simply administering a self-breast exam. This is to be done in addition to a mammogram, as a mammogram is one of the best ways to look deep inside the breast tissue for anything abnormal. Mammograms are more than just a test — mammogram screening every two years for women aged 65 to 74 has been shown to reduce breast cancer-related deaths.

But, many women forgo administering a breast exam simply because they believe it is too hard. So to prevent this, our women’s health services group has developed an easy breast self-exam guide to follow.

Once a month
Make sure to check your breasts once a month at bare minimum. This is not only so you can get accustomed to how your breasts feel, but so you can develop a schedule. Just make sure not to do the breast exam in the week leading up to and during the week of your menstrual cycle as the breast tissue can swell with the hormonal changes in your body.

The rule of Threes
Our women’s health services center recommends that you should give yourself an exam in three different positions — the shower, in front of the mirror, and when lying down. This is so you can feel the breast in different positions. Here is what to look for:

  • When in the shower: Using the pads of your fingers, move around your breast in a circular pattern from the nipple moving outwards to the armpit area. You will want to check for hardness, knots, thickening, or lumps. If you notice a lump, contact a doctor right away for a breast lump screening to rule out if it is benign or not.

  • When looking in the mirror: Inspect your breasts first with your arms at your sides and secondly with your arms raised. Look for swelling, dimpling of the skin, or abnormalities in the nipple. Then, put your hands on your hips and push forward so your chest muscles are flexed and see if anything changes or disappears. If it does, something isn’t right.

  • When laying down: It is important to complete an exam while lying down as this is when the breast tissue spreads out against your chest’s wall. Prop your right shoulder up with a pillow, and with your right arm above your head, use your left hand to examine your breast as you would when in the shower. Focus especially on the nipple and look for any redness, swelling, or discharge. Repeat for your left breast, using the right hand.

A simple five-minute breast exam can really mean a world of difference to your health. If you have any questions about a breast exam or how to schedule a mammogram, please do not hesitate to contact our women’s health services center today with any and all questions.

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