It’s Dr. Alaina here! Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, as a Healthy Breast Expert I thought this would be a perfect time to encourage you that you know your body best, including when it comes to your breast health. Regardless of your age, I encourage you to know what’s your normal for how your breasts look and feel so that you can alert your doctor to any changes.
Breast Self-Exam Quick Tips:
- The only way to become familiar is through regular self-checks.
- The best time to check your breasts is about 1 week after your menstrual period starts.
- Practice a breast self exam technique and stick with it (it will get easier each time).
There are some risks with breast self-exams. You may find a change that causes unnecessary anxiety and/or treatment. Some health experts believe the harms of these self-checks outweigh the benefits. I believe that with proper education and support from your healthcare provider, knowing your body and being able to identify unexpected changes is valuable to long term health and wellness.
3 Steps to Completing Your Breast Self-Exam
- 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.
- 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.
- Lying Down – 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.