Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Self-Exams

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re taking some time to talk about breast health, and what you can do to minimize your risk.

The best place to start with breast health is understanding how to administer a breast self-exam. It’s always best to catch any abnormalities early and often. While most women receive yearly clinical breast exams administered by their physician or GYN, it’s also important to perform self-exams monthly (as the National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests) to increase your chances of catching any lumps or irregularities as soon as possible.

Here are some steps as outlined by the Breast Cancer Organization for Self Examination:

Standing in front of the mirror: Make sure your back is straight and your hands are resting on your hips. Look for the following in your breasts:

  • Change in size or shape, making sure each breast is evenly shaped with no swelling or distortion
  • Dimpling, puckering, or discoloration of the skin
  • Inverted nipples or any discharge from the nipple.

Arms raised: look for the same signs as above. Gently squeeze both nipples to check for discharge (which can be a milky, watery or yellowish fluid, or blood).

Lying down: put your right arm behind your head. Your breast tissue will spread out, which will make this part of the exam more effective. Using your left hand, work the pads of your fingers in circular motions (about the size of a quarter) around the entire area of the breast. Most women find it easiest to work in patterns, starting at the nipple. Spirals or rows work best, making sure to cover the entire breast area, from top to bottom, and left to right. What you should be looking for:

  • Lumps, thickening of the tissue, or hardened knots

Standing up (in the shower): with one arm behind your head, repeat the same circular motion, again making sure to cover the entire area of the breast.

If you notice any of the above signs, including changes in size or shape, lumps or knots in the tissue, or discharge, rash, or pain of any sort, consult your doctor right away.

Written by Olivia Murphy

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