A huge part of being able to detect breast cancer early is through a self-breast exam. According to Breastcancer.org, 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer is also one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women.
In this post, we’ll walk you through how to do a self-breast exam: how often you should self-breast exam, at what age you should start self-breast exams, and more. You will get all of the information you need to be prepared and conduct thorough self-breast exams.
Why You Need to Conduct a Self-Exam
Regularly examining your breasts on your own is an important part of monitoring your overall female health. Breastcancer.org says that conducting a breast-self exam can help increase the chances of detecting breast cancer early.
The primary benefit of conducting regular self-breast exams is that women become very familiar with how their breast should look and feel, which makes it much easier to detect any abnormalities such as dimples, lumps, and bumps.
Common Questions About Self-Breast Exams
Here are some of the most common questions surrounding self-breast exams:
At what age should you start self-breast exams?
It is optional, but starting at age 20 is the recommended best time to start doing self-breast exams.
How often should you do a self-breast exam?
Women should get in the habit of conducting a self-breast exam once monthly to become familiar with how their breasts typically look and feel.
When is the best time to do a self-breast exam?
The best time to do a self-breast exam is, first and foremost, the same time every month. That is because hormonal fluctuations that can affect the breast tissue, so doing it at the same period of each month means the exam will be more consistent. There are conflicting opinions on what time of the month is best, but many agree toward the end of your period or even a day or two after your period is best because it is when breasts are the least tender.
How to Do a Self-Breast Exam
Here are self-breast exam instructions so you can properly conduct the exam once a month:
1. Check the Mirror – Find a spot, perhaps a bathroom, where there is good lighting so you can clearly see in front of a mirror. You should completely undress from the waist up, look at your breasts in the mirror and check for:
- Any changes in size, shape, or color of your breasts.
- Raise each of your armpits, either one at a time or together, to check in those areas for any unusual changes.
- Look specifically for differences such as dimpling, redness, rashes, changes in nipples, or bulging skin.
2. Laying down – Using the tips of your three middle fingers, laying down on the floor or a bed, feel for changes in different sections of the breast going all the way to the armpit. You should look for differences in breast shape, lumps, or bumps.
3. Standing up – You can also conduct the self-breast exam standing up, although it never hurts to do it both laying down and standing up. The best place to do this might be in the shower. Using an oil may also be helpful so you can more easily feel around with your fingertips
4. Moving correctly – You should use your opposite hand to feel your breast. Keeping your fingers as straight as possible, feel around the breast with a firm but smooth touch. You should start from the nipple and move outwardly in a circular motion, or, you can try an up-and-down motion.
5. Take your time – Don’t feel the need to rush your breast self-exam. Take as much time as you need to slowly and carefully explore each section for any unusual changes.
6. Noticing something – If you do notice something unusual during the self-breast exam, there is no need to panic unnecessarily. Most lumps found in the breast are not cancerous. If you notice something, you should make an appointment to consult with your doctor on how to proceed further and whether you should have more tests like a mammogram or a biopsy done.
Something else that can help in your self-breast exam is knowing what type of breast tissue you have. For example, if you have dense breast tissue, it might be helpful to speak with your doctor on how to conduct a better self-breast exam with dense breasts.
Remember that all breast self-examinations should be used in conjunction with other physical exams by a doctor, such as regular mammogram appointments starting at age 40, and potentially, ultrasounds and MRIs. Self-breast exams at home should not be your sole method for checking for breast cancer.
If you have other health concerns, read our guide to the most common female health problems to understand how to take care of other female-related issues.
The only way to know for sure if you have breast cancer is to get a diagnosis from a medical professional. MagView’s cutting-edge Mammography Information Systems will provide you with first-class patient experiences, streamlined design, an accredited reporting system, and state-of-the-art data retrieval and calculation that give you the clarity and peace of mind you need.
We hope this information on how to do a self-breast exam has been helpful to you and provided the information you need to conduct regular self-breast examinations at home properly.