Doing a breast self-exam and regularly examining your breasts on your own, can be an important way to find breast cancer early, which makes the biggest difference to get it treated successfully.
While there is no single way to detect breast cancer early, a self-exam in combination with other screening methods can significantly increase the odds of early detection.
So here’s a how to guide for self-exams
Look at your breasts in a mirror with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips. What you are looking for:
- Are your breasts their usual size, shape, and colour?
- Are they evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling?
If you see any of the following changes then bring them to your doctor’s attention:
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging in the skin
- A nipple has changed position or become inverted (pushed inwards instead of sticking out)
- redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
Raise your arms and look for the same changes as in the previous step
Next, find somewhere comfortable to lie down. When examining your left breast, lift your left arm up and rest it under your head and with your right hand feel your left breast. use the mirror position for examining your right breast.
Use a firm, smooth touch with three fingers tips, keeping your fingers flat and together. Use circular motion starting from the nipple outwards.
Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side, from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. This is why you are checking the entire breast area no matter how big or small your breasts are.
One your check both breasts use light to medium pressure along your breast bone (cleavage) and down your ribcage.
Sit or stand up lifting one arm above your head and follow the same feeling examination as before.
Many women find it easier to examine their breasts when their skin is wet and slippery so you can try to follow the standing examination when in the shower.
If you find a lump or bump in your breast don’t panic. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time. These can be the milk ducts, or slight benign lumps, also if you are menstruating you may want to wait until after your period to check if the lump or other changes in your breast has disappeared.
If you are concerned about what you’ve found, call your doctor and they can then double check through a further examination.