Proper steps to conducting a breast self-exam

October 17, 2013

Women recognize the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, which includes conducting self-exams to detect for breast cancer. Breast self-exams are vital to discovering abnormalities, including lumps or tenderness, in the breasts.

Self-examination increases the chances of early detection of breast cancer. John Hopkins Medical Center states that 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump.

Doctors urge women to conduct monthly self-exams to familiarize themselves with the look and feel of their breasts, which enables them to more readily recognize any abnormalities that may indicate illness. There are a number of ways to conduct a breast self-exam, and women are urged to find the method they feel is most comfortable for them.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., offers these tips for conducting a breast examination at home.

* Examine breasts in the shower. A breast examination can take place in the shower while you are washing. The shower is a convenient place to conduct an exam since you already have removed your clothes. NBCF says you should use the pads of your fingers and move around your entire breast in a circular pattern, moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month for any lumps, thickening or hardened knots. If you find a lump, visit your physician for an evaluation.

* Conduct an examination in bed. The breast tissue will naturally distribute over your chest wall and ribs when you are lying down. NBCF advises you to place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Squeeze the nipple and check for discharge or lumps. Then repeat the process on the left breast.

* Conduct a visual examination. Standing in front of the mirror, you can look at your breasts with your hands at your side and over your head. Look for any differences between breasts. Many women find that their breasts are not exactly the same shape or size, but unusual dimpling or taut or thick skin may be indicative of a problem.

Should any lumps or abnormalities be discovered during an examination, a woman should not panic but schedule an appointment with her doctor for a more thorough examination, which may include a mammogram or ultrasound to map out images of the breast that may be hidden to the naked eye.

Breast self-examinations are an essential element of a healthy lifestyle for women. Early detection of breast cancer vastly improves survival rates, and self-examination is often the most effective way to detect breast cancer early on. TF138409