Just like any other cancer, breast cancer can be treated if it is detected early and according to the medical center located in John Hopkins, at least 40% of those women diagnosed with breast cancer were those who felt a lump in their breasts. This is why women above the age of 18 are always encouraged to do a breast examination at least once every month.
Doing a breast exam helps you to be familiar with the normal features of your breasts – how they look and feel. Every woman is different and what is normal for another may not be normal for you. Doing the breast exam will also alert you to any changes that may occur from month to month.
Schedule a time every month for you to perform the breast exam. If you are on your period, the best time for the breast exam is about 2 to 3 days after the end of your period, which is the time when your breasts are less likely to be swollen and tender. If you have passed your menopause stage, still pick a specific date of the month to perform the routine. Better still, make the breast exam a lifetime habit, your body and health will thank you for it.
Before we go further, let us first look at the 3 styles with which you can perform the physical breast exam:
- Circular technique: starting at the outermost top of your breast, use the hand opposite the breast you are examining and press the flat parts at the tips of your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers into your breast. Move slowly in small circles around your breast, working your way toward the nipple. Press firmly to gently feel the deep tissues under your skin. Make sure you cover the entire breast without skipping any parts and then repeat for your second breast.
- Grid technique: here you start at the innermost part of the breast, close to your breastbone and with the flat part of your fingertips, press gently and firmly as you move down the breast. Slightly slide the fingers back up and then down again until you have examined the whole of the breast, then repeat for the other breast.
- Wheel spokes technique: Think about dividing your breast into sections like the spokes that divide a wheel. From the outermost top of your breast, press the flat of your fingertips into the opposite breast, first moving toward the nipple, then away from it. When you finish that section, gently move your fingers a bit to the next section and repeat the process as you move around the entire breast. Then repeat for the second breast.
Always make sure to use the pads of your fingertips on your 3 middle fingers.
Now let us take a look at 3 ways to do breast examination for cancer prevention.
As important as it is to do a breast exam, it is also important for you to choose a way that is comfortable for you and make sure you do it that same way each month. Just make sure that as you do it, you don’t skip any part of your breast and check for thickening, hardened knots, lumps or any changes from your last exam.
One of the ways to do a breast exam is by lying down. To examine your right breast lie flat on your back with a folded towel or a small pillow under your left shoulder and lift your left arm over your head.
In that position, use the flat part of your fingertips as described in the methods above and press firmly to feel the deep tissues, then more gently to feel those tissues directly under the skin. Repeat the process for your second breast.
Also, make sure you check the area between your armpit and your upper outer breast, the armpit itself as well as checking for enlarged lymph nodes in the area just above your collarbone.
VISUAL INSPECTION IN FRONT OF A MIRROR
To do this, make sure your upper body is fully naked as you stand in front of a mirror, then lift your arms and place both hands behind your head.
Check your breasts for any changes in the size, shape, and color. Look for any dimples on the skin or if the nipples are pulling in as well as any rash or scaling on the nipples.
After that, place your hands on your hips and tighten the muscles on your chest. You can do that by pressing your chest firmly inward as you look for any changes to your breasts’ usual appearance. Also make sure that as you do this, you are leaning slightly forward. Once done, check again while standing upright.
IN THE SHOWER
This way is particularly helpful because the wet, soapy surface of your skin makes it easier to feel for lumps. Examining your breasts in the shower is also helpful because the masses in the upper part of your breast are often more easy to detect as you stand upright. On the other hand, the masses in the lower part of your breast are more easily felt when you are lying down.
Put your right hand behind your head and with the flat part of the fingertips of your left hand, examine your entire right breast as stated in one of the above-mentioned methods, then repeat with your left breast.
It is very important to see your doctor if you find any change or lump in your breast, especially if there is discharge in your nipple, dimples on your skin or a change in the texture of your breast.
About 80% of all the lumps often found in women are either normal tissue, benign masses or non-cancerous cysts so it’s only your doctor that can really tell you what’s in the lump.
Therefore, if you notice any changes in the tissues of your breasts, don’t wait, contact your doctor immediately.