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How to Breast Self Exam

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Do a Consistant Breast Self Exam Every Month

Performing monthly breast self-exams should be part of every woman's ritual.  Monthly exams ensure that any changes will be noticeable; the yearly doctor exam isn't enough because the doctor is not going to remember how your breast felt a year ago. Knowing how to breast self-exam the right way is crucial—otherwise the exam is worthless.

How to Perform a Breast Self Exam

The first step of a breast self-exam is to be sure to take the time to properly do it.  One breast can be done one day and the other breast the next day if it is hard to find the extra time.  Also, breast self-examinations shouldn't be completed while a women is on her period or any other time of the month that the breasts are swollen.

  • Some doctors will say that the correct method of breast self examination is to do it while lying down.  Other doctors say that a reminder on  how to breast self-exam should be hung in every woman's shower.  The reason why many doctors prefer the prone method is because of the way the breast tissue spreads around and is as thin as it possibly can be.  Whichever way you decide to do it, it needs to be done the same way every month, because breasts feel different depending on the position they are in.
  • No matter if you do it lying down or standing up, the breast self-examination starts by holding up the arm of the breast that you want to exam (let's say the right arm).  Start by placing your right hand or arm (depending on your flexibility) behind your head.  Use the pads of the first three fingers of your left hand to perform small circles around the breast tissue.  Be sure to overlap the circles so that you are covering your whole breast. Each circle should be completed with three different pressures.  Use light pressure to check the top of the tissue, medium pressure to check a little deeper and deep pressure to check the tissue at the bottom.
  • After you have checked the whole right breast with little circles, the second step of the self exam is to check the breast from top (by your neck) to bottom (ribs) starting from the armpit.  Still using the first three fingers of your left arm, start at your armpit and run your fingers down the outer edge of your breast.  When you are only touching your ribs, move your fingers in a little and then run then back up your breast.  Think of mowing a lawn: you want to overlap just a little each time up and then down your breast.  Be sure to cover all the way up to your collarbone and down until you are only touching your ribs.  Continue this up and down motion across your breast until your last path up or down is only of your chest bone.
  • Then put your right arm down and put your left hand or arm behind your head.  Complete both steps of the exam using the pads of the first three fingers on your right hand.
  • Once both breasts have been examined, you should exam your armpits.  Breast cancer can start in areas around the breast and also the armpit holds lymph nodes which can swell in response to a viral infection or cancer.  From the standing or sitting position, slightly elevate your left arm away from your body so that you can easily reach into your armpit with the pads of the first two or three fingers of your left hand.  Using the small circles from before and medium pressure, check your whole armpit and surrounding area.  Then slightly raise your left arm and repeat the procedure using the pads of the first two or three fingers of your right hand.
  • The final step of the how to breast self-exam process is to look at your breasts in the mirror while your hands are pressing on your hips.  Pay attention to the shape of them and the way that each breast hangs, appears or forms in this position.  Changes in shape or symetry, or dimples that didn't seem to be present formerly but are now deserve careful scrutiny.  Look for changes in the skin such as dryness or blemishes.  If your monthly breast self exam reveals anything that wasn't there the month before, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Women's breasts go through changes throughout the course of one's life, but it can only help to get your doctor's opinion on any little or large change that you've noticed.

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