We’ve had quite a few scares in the past decade but the biggest scare for women has been the alarming rise of breast cancer cases all over the world. However, we have made remarkable progress over the years and can now offer breast cancer patients a real fighting chance. Early detection has been crucial towards doing so. Below are a few simple steps on how to self examine your breasts that may help pick up any such abnormalities in time.
How to Do a Breast Self-Exam: The Five Steps
The most convenient time for a woman to examine her breasts is probably right before she goes in for shower.
- Stand in front of the mirror with your arms on your hips and observe your breasts. They should be their usual size, shape and colour. Look for any visible distortion or swelling. (Don’t worry about your breasts not being of the same size, it is quite common.)
- Look for any discharge or retraction of the nipples.
- Look at the level of both nipples, ideally both must be on the same level.
- Inspect the areola region(the region right around your nipple of the same colour) check to see if it is swollen with a dimpled appearance of an orange (peau d’orange)
- Inspect the skin over your breasts for any puckering (small wrinkles or folds) or dimpling.
Now press your hands (which should already be on your hips) against your hips, tighten your chest muscles and look for any of the above symptoms.
With your hands still on your hips lean forward to check if both breasts are falling forward equally and freely at the same level.
Raise both your arms above your head and look for the same changes mentioned in STEP 1, especially the level of your nipples and visible distortions in the shape of both breasts.
Next, use your right hand to feel your left breast while raising your left hand, and vice versa.
- Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically. Look for any lumps and areas of redness that are warm and painful.
- Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
- Examine your nipple; squeeze it to check for any bloody discharge.
Finally, examine your breasts while lying down,repeating the same movements as in STEP 4.
If you do find any abnormality while examining your breasts, do not panic. It is not necessary that the symptom you are experiencing is due to cancer. There are various breast related conditions that can cause some of these symptoms, for example: adolescent girls and women under thirty can have a fibroadenoma (A solid, noncancerous breast lump that is firm, smooth, rubbery or hard with a well-defined shape). It is usually harmless.
Please make sure to notify your doctor and get yourself evaluated if you come across any of these symptoms, do not reach a conclusion on your own.
Image courtesy: breastcancer.org