By: Dr. Thomas Incledon
Why Self Breast Exams are Important and How to DIY
Self-exams are a simple and free way to take control of your health. By knowing how your breasts normally feel, you can detect changes in them and take action without waiting for your annual doctor’s appointment or mammogram. You should perform a self-exam once a month.
Most people think of feeling a lump as the main symptom of breast cancer, but there are other things to know about when being proactive with your breast health. There are three categories of signs of breast cancer to be aware of when you are conducting your self-exam. When making your observations, you are determining if you see or feel changes, even gradual ones, or if you notice a something more obvious, such as a lump.
How does the breast or nipple feel?
- Nipple tenderness
- Solidifying of tissue in or near the breast or underarm area
- Differences in skin texture or an enlargement of pores
How does the breast or nipple look?
- Any unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
- Unexplained swelling or shrinking, especially if on one side only
- Inverted nipple
- Red or scaly skin, similar to that of an orange peel
Do you have nipple discharge?
- Clear or bloody discharge
- Milky discharge when you are not breastfeeding is not linked with breast cancer, but should be brought to you doctor’s attention
How to Perform a Self Breast Exam
Doctors recommend three different ways to conduct a self-exam. You should follow them all each month in order to feel and see any changes that may be occurring.
In the shower: To begin, place the hand on the side of the breast you’re checking behind your head. This is important because your self-exam includes your armpit area and each breast. On each side, you’ll repeat the same steps. Use the pads of your fingertips and work in a circular motion starting at the outside and moving to the center of the breast. Remember you are feeling for any areas that are hardening or any lumps that you feel.
In front of a mirror: Look at your breasts in the mirror with your hands by your sides and then with them above your head. Then, put your hands on your hips and flex your chest muscles. In each position, you are determining if you see any dimpling, swelling, or changes to your nipple. While almost no one has symmetrical breasts, it is important to pay attention to differences that are more pronounced in only one breast.
Lying down: The final step is to lay on your bed, which allows the breast tissue to spread out in an even layer. Like the exam in the shower, place one hand above your head and examine that breast and armpit with slow, circular motions. You should vary the pressure to ensure you are feeling anything that may be closer to the chest wall. Then, squeeze your nipple to check for any discharge. Be sure you do this with both breasts.
If you feel or see something different in your breasts, even a slow change over time, talk to your doctor. Not all lumps are cancer and not all swelling or discharge is related to cancer, but it is best to have anything you are concerned about checked by a doctor. The earlier you detect breast cancer, the better your chance of becoming a breast cancer survivor.
To learn more about breast cancer symptoms, prevention, and personalized treatment at Causenta, schedule your free consultation today. You can also view our tutorial podcast led by Dr. Kristy Anderson an accomplished nationally and internationally studied physician on our team. She is an expert in the areas of pain management, orthopedic conditions, cancer research, and the treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases.
About the Author
Dr. Thomas is the founder and CEO of Causenta Wellness, and the Causenta Cancer Treatment Center in Arizona. From working with NFL, MLB, MMA, World Class athletes and even the White House, his reputation of personalized medicine and cutting-edge technologies has put him on the map, caring for some of the most powerful people in the world, making him one of the most sought-after healthcare professionals of all time.