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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How to Perform a Self-Examination


Lifestyle Improvement

Posted On: Oct 20, 2015

breast cancer advise

We hear a lot of about breast cancer in the month of October, but as we all know, it’s an issue that we all need to pay attention to throughout the year. In the United States, breast cancer is second only to lung cancer as the most deadly form of cancer for all women. Breast cancer is the most diagnosed form of cancer for women in the U.S. right after skin cancer. Experts have estimated that nearly one-third of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in 2015 will be breast cancers. While breast cancer is very prevalent in the U.S., there is one weapon to fight it that is better than anything else: early detection.

                Women with breast tumors that are detected early have a much better survival rate than those whose cancer is caught later. In order to ensure the best chance of early detection, a routine breast self-exam should be performed at home. Experts recommend that self-exams be administered at least once a month by all adult women. About 40% of all lumps that go on to be diagnosed as breast cancers are found with a routine self-exam done at home. This fact underscores the importance of regular monthly self-exams. Let’s look at the best ways to perform an exam.

                One common way to perform a breast self-exam is in the shower. This method is convenient for most women because they are in the shower every day, so all they need to do is pick one day out of the month in which they have some extra time to perform a self-exam. Once in the shower, the exam can be done by moving the tips of the fingers in a circular pattern from the outside of the breast to the center. The entire breast and armpit area should be checked using this method. Anything that feels like a lump, a knot, or a thickening should be checked out by a doctor.

                A breast self-exam can also be done in front of a mirror. The advantage of this method is that the breasts can be visually inspected. The breasts should be visually examined first with the arms at the side, and then with the arms raised. Any swelling or changes in the contour of the breasts should be noted, as well as any changes in the nipples. The final part of the visual exam involves placing the hands on the hips and flexing the chest muscles. While flexing, any puckering, dimpling, or other changes should be noted, especially if they only occur on one side.

                One final way to perform a self-exam is by lying down. This type of exam is advantageous because when lying down, the breast tissue flattens out along the chest, making it easier to find lumps that may have evaded detection with the shower exam. After placing the right arm and shoulder on a pillow behind the head, the left hand is used to check the right breast and armpit area just like in the shower exam. The arms are then switched to check the other side.