The breast self-exam is an important way to monitor your breast health during the months you don’t visit your gynecologist. These exams can detect issues or diseases that may not have otherwise been found until your next annual exam.
Why is it important to conduct breast self-exams?
Breast self-exams are a critical component of breast care for a number of reasons. You’ll become familiar with your own breast tissue which will help you notice when something is different. You’ll also learn what to look for and what’s considered abnormal. There are different kinds of breast lumps. Check here for more detailed descriptions and illustrations.
While some studies indicate that self-exams do not decrease mortality from breast cancer, there are enough anecdotes of women who discovered a cancerous lump just through a breast self-exam that one cannot ignore the value of being familiar with your own breast health. Actively participating in and maintaining a healthy attitude towards your care starts with a simple breast self-exam. By being familiar with your own body, you’ll remain more vigilant if you notice something that’s amiss.
It is important to note that breast self-exams should be done in addition to regular visits with your gynecologist and having regular mammograms and any abnormal finding warrants a visit with your doctor immediately.
When should you perform a breast self-exam?
The best time is usually several days after your period ends when your breast tissue is less swollen or tender. You can do one in the shower or while lying down and you should do them once a month.
How to do a visual breast self-exam
First, look in a mirror at your breasts. Look to see if there are any changes in the skin texture, shape, or size of the breasts. Look to see if your nipples are normal or inverted (pushed in). Raise your arms over your head and examine your breasts. Do this again with your arms lowered by your sides.
How to do a manual breast self-exam
After doing the visual exam, lie down or stand in the shower. Raise one arm behind your head and with the other hand, move the pads of your fingers in a circular motion around your breast and armpit. Use firm but not heavy pressure. Move from the outside into the center of the breast. Feel for any hardened knots, lumps, or thick areas. Switch arms and repeat on the other side. Squeeze each nipple to check for discharge.
What if you find something?
If you feel or see something new or worrisome, call your doctor’s office for an in-office exam. While the vast majority of lumps end up being benign (not cancerous), it’s still a good idea to be sure.
Have more questions or concerns?
Call Bloom Ob/Gyn at 202-449-9570 or contact us to set up an appointment with one of our providers.