When conducted correctly and often, self-breast examinations can help reduce your risk of undetected breast cancer.
According to the Johns Hopkins Medical Center, “Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.” Here is a list of ways and steps to take when conducting a breast exam, and remember, if you have any concerns, contact your doctor. A lump does not always mean anything cancerous and could be something like a cyst, BUT a lump should NEVER BE LEFT UNCHECKED.
It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Self-breast exams can be performed in three places: in the shower, in front of a mirror or while lying down on your back. The following steps are provided by the National Breast Cancer Foundation and can be viewed more in depth here.
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. On your back
"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."