No matter your prior health history, it is always important to regularly check the health of your breasts. Regular self-exams at home can help you detect any abnormal irregularities early on. This self-examination should in no way replace regular visits to your doctor but is a tool that can help spot early signs of breast cancer.
How to Check for Signs of Breast Cancer at Home:
Step 1: Get in a comfortable position.
We recommend performing this exam standing in front of a mirror, while in the shower, or laying down. In order to feel for irregularities, your breasts must lay naturally, so do not have a bra or sports bra on.
Step 2: Without touching your breasts yet, look for any changes in the shape of your breasts.
Is one breast more swollen than another? Is there dimpling of the skin or any texture changes? Flex your upper chest area and look for differences between the left and right breast. Most women do not have symmetrical breasts, and one is often bigger than the other, but areas of puckering, dimpling, redness or rash should be checked by your healthcare provider.
Step 3: Examine Using the Pads of Your Fingers.
Using the fingers of your opposite hand (right hand for left breast and left hand for right), softly move them around the breast tissue. Start from the area underneath your armpit and move steadily, in small circles, around the entire breast. Try to keep the pads of your fingers flat while doing so. Look for areas where there are lumps, thickening tissues, knots or other changes that feel foreign to you. It may be easier to do this while in the shower as your skin is more slippery. Be sure to lift up each arm and check underneath the armpit as well. Contact your healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
- Lumps/ knots
- Thickening tissue
- Soreness or Discomfort while performing the exam
Step 4 Check your nipples.
Notice if there is any discoloration, lumps, or discharge. Consult your healthcare provider if any of the above occurs or if your nipple has shifted position or becomes inverted.
A self-exam should not replace a visit to your physician. It is recommended for women to schedule an annual physical with their physicians.