Know How To Perform A Breast Self-Exam

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. It’s not just about acknowledging breast cancer as a whole, but making sure that the necessary steps are taken in order to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages. The SHAW Center is committed to making sure that all possible preventative measures are taken so that you can avoid scheduling the one consultation we never want you to have to make.

In the mirror:
Standing undressed in front of the mirror, with your arms relaxed by your sides, look for any skin puckering, dimpling, sores, or discoloration. Inspect your nipples and look for any sores, peeling, or change in the direction of the nipples.

Then with your hands on your hips, press down firmly to tighten the chest muscles beneath your breasts and turn side to side to examine the outer part of your breasts.
Next, lean towards the mirror while rolling your shoulders and elbows forward In order to tighten your chest muscles. Once your breasts fall forward, pay attention to any changes in the shape or contour of your breasts.

Now, clasp your hands behind your head and press forward. Again, turn from side to side to check the outside portion of your breasts, as well as the border underneath. You may need to lift your breasts to see this area.

Place your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and pull outward toward the end of the nipple to check for any possible signs of discharge.

In the shower:
Make sure you’re feeling for any changes in your breasts by checking for any lumps or thickening in your underarm area. Sometimes it is easier to detect these changes when your hands are slippery with soap and water. Put your left hand on your hip and reach over with your right hand to feel in the left armpit. Repeat with the opposite side.          
While your hands are still soapy, raise one arm behind your head to spread out the breast tissue, and use the flat part of your fingers from the opposite hand to press gently into the breast. Moving from the bra line to collarbone, follow an up-and-down pattern along the breast.

Lying down:
When lying down, place a small pillow under your right shoulder while putting your right hand behind your head.

Next, place your left hand on the upper portion of your right breast while fingers are together and flat. Following the perimeter of your breast and keeping your fingers flat, massage in circular motions feeling around for any strange lumps. Continue in this pattern until you’ve felt the entire breast. Make sure to feel the upper outer areas that extend into your armpit.

Place your fingers flat and directly on top of your nipple. Feel beneath the nipple for any changes. Gently press your nipple inward. It should move easily.

         Just In Case
          If you do discover any changes in your breast, you should see your health care provider as soon as possible for further examination. Changes you should be looking out for include:

-An area that is distinctly different from any other area on either breast
-A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that persists through the menstrual cycle
-A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
-A mass or lump, which may feel as small as a pea
-A marble-like area under the skin
-A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed)
-Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipples
-Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple