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The Importance of a Self-Breast Exam

female physician with young female patient

Should you perform a breast self-exam?

You should be performing this exam at least once a month. Although mammograms can sometimes detect cancer before you can feel a lump, a monthly self-exam can help you detect any changes – including lumps.

Although most lumps are non-cancerous, self-exams can help you detect a problem that could indicate the presence of cancer. The sooner you can identify and get further testing for a potential problem, the better. If breast cancer is diagnosed in its earlier stages, it’s more easily treated.

What should you look out for?

When you conduct a monthly exam, you’ll get used to the way they look and feel. Any difference is worth mentioning to your doctor, and you should particularly look out a change in the following:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Position of nipples
  • Skin changes such as redness, swelling, or dimpling

In addition, check both nipples to make sure one or both isn’t leaking any fluid. This can look watery, milky, bloody, or yellowish.

How should you examine your breasts?

In the shower

Lumps or knots can sometimes be easier to detect in the shower since your fingers can move more easily over your breasts when they’re wet.

Use the pads of your fingers to move in a circular pattern, trying to feel any lumps, knots, or thickened area. Move from the outside of your breast to the center, and make sure you check the entire breast, including the armpit area.

In front of a mirror

Look at your breasts in front of a mirror, first with your arms against your sides and then with your arms raised above your head. Look for any changes in your skin or nipples, such as swelling or dimpling.

Then flex your chest by resting your palms on your hips and pressing them firmly. Look for any dimpling or other changes, especially if it’s only on one side.

Lying down

This position helps spread your breast tissue out more evenly. Put a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head.

Use the pads of your fingers on your left hand to feel your right breast in small circular motions. Use light, medium, and firm pressure, making sure to cover the entire breast area as well as the armpit. Squeeze your nipple, looking for signs of fluid. Repeat with your left breast.

If you detect any changes in your breasts, make an appointment to see your doctor. He or she can help you determine whether any further testing is warranted.

To find out more ways you can adopt a healthy lifestyle, contact Performance Health today in NYC or Pearl River, NY. Our team of 30 providers is dedicated to providing the services and information you need to improve your health.

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