Performing a monthly breast self-test exam should be a priority among women of child-bearing age. The habit is one that should continue well into old age. Breast self-tests can help save your life. If you are still menstruating, you should make sure that you test your breasts at the same time of the month each and every month. Most experts agree that it is wise to wait until after your period has passed to perform the exam as hormone fluctuations can cause changes in the breast tissue.
If you notice any changes in the texture and/or shape of your breasts, it’s important to contact your health care provider as soon as possible and have a check-up.
There are five main steps to a proper breast self-test.
- While standing in front of a mirror in which you can see your breasts clearly, look at your breasts. Your shoulders should be straight and your arms should lie on your hips. Consider the answers to the following questions:
- Are your breasts their usual size, shape and/or color?
- Do you detect any dimpling?
- What about puckering?
- Perhaps some bulging of the skin?
- Has a nipple changed position or become inverted? (Note – an inverted nipple will be pushed inward.)
- Do you notice any redness or soreness?
- Is there a rash?
- Are your breasts inexplicably swollen?
- Raise your arms over your head, putting the palms of the hands together. Look in the mirror and ask yourself the same questions you did in step one. Do you notice any difference in the answers?
- Gently squeeze each nipple between your thumb and forefinger. Check your fingers for any discharge. If there is any, take note of the color. Is it yellow or white? Is there any amount of blood?
- Lie down. Feel your breasts. First, use your right hand to feel your left breast. Then, switch hands and breasts. It’s best to use a smooth, firm touch using the first few fingers of the hand. Try to keep the fingers flat and together as you cover the entire surface are of the breast. You want to make sure that you go from top to bottom and side to side this includes the area from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen length-wise and the range from your armpit to your cleavage width-wise. You will also want to increase the pressure from a light to a firmer touch so that you can feel the layers of breast tissue down to the area surrounding your rib cage.
- Stand or sit up. Perform the same exploration with your fingers as in step four. Some women prefer to do this while they are in the shower. The important thing is to make sure that you mimic the movements in the previous step, making sure to cover the length, width and depth of the breast tissue.
Remember – if anything seems unusual or different in this area of your body, it’s best to seek the assistance of a qualified medical practitioner such as your primary care doctor. Don’t attempt to self-diagnose or rush to judgment. Get the help you need as soon as you are able to. Even if it turns out to be breast cancer, it’s important to remember that early detection can help save your life.