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Self Care: Breast Self-Exam Edition

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women. It doesn’t care your age, your race, your marital or parental status. Doctors do not know why breast cancer develops so it is important to know how to educate yourself on early detection.

Giving yourself monthly breast exams can be key to detecting early changes in your breasts. Remember, you are an important member of your healthcare team. If you are not currently performing monthly exams, now is the perfect time to start! Regular self-exams will get you familiar with your breasts which will allow you to recognize changes easier.

Do you know how to give yourself a monthly exam? Do you really know and do it each month? Below are all the details. We suggest picking a day of the month, setting a reminder on your calendar, and making your exam a priority!

Your breast tissue actually starts at your collar bone. It extends over to your underarm then moves down the rib cage, and all the way across the chest. It is important to include this entire area when performing your monthly exams. When performing your exam keep the following in mind to report to your healthcare provider if discovered:

  • Tenderness in the Nipple

  • A lump or thickening in the breast or armpit area

  • A change in texture of the breast skin

  • Enlargement of the pores in the breast skin (some describe this as an orange peel look)

  • Change in the appearance of the nipple or breast

  • Dimpling anywhere on the breast

  • A sudden swelling or shrinkage, especially in a single breast

  • The nipple is newly turned slightly inward or inverted

  • Red, scaly, or swollen skin of the breast

  • Discharge from the nipple, milk when not breastfeeding

How to do your exam

Video Options: (breast exposed) (no breast exposed)

Read the Details:

1) In the Shower

Using the pads of your fingers, 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 feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2) In Front of a Mirror

Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.

Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women's breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

3) Lying Down

When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. 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.

Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.


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