Breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in women, and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms so women can get early check ups. It can occur in one or both breasts. It also occurs in men, although the odds are <1%. Women are also encouraged to constantly practice self-breast examinations regularly to be able to check for any abnormality.
For women still menstruating, a breast self-exam should be performed a few days after her period ends. For those who are postmenopausal, the exam should be performed on the same day of each month.
Self Breast examination steps are very simple, and every woman can follow along.
In the Shower
With the pads/flats of your 3 middle fingers, check the entire breast and armpit area, pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure. Check both breasts each month, feeling for any new lumps, thickenings, hardened knots, or any other breast changes.
In Front of a Mirror
With your arms at your sides, visually inspect your breasts, looking for any changes in the contour or shape of the breasts, any dimpling, swelling, or other skin irregularities on or around the breasts, or any changes in the nipples.
Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Look for any dimpling, puckering, or other changes, particularly on one side. Note that the left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts are perfectly symmetrical.
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your 3 middle fingers around your right breast, covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure to feel for any new lumps, thickenings, hardened knots, or any other breast changes. Also squeeze the nipple to check for discharge. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Be mindful of signs like:
- A lump in the breast or a thickening near the breast and underarm area
- Nipple tenderness or discharge outside breastfeeding
- A change in the skin texture of the breast becoming scaly, red, or swollen (similar to orange peel’s texture)
If you find any of the following signs while doing an examination, please visit your doctor for a check up. Please remember that not all lumps are cancerous, but all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional.