How to Perform A Breast Self-Exam

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

While more people are surviving a breast cancer diagnosis than ever before, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among Canadian women.

Get comfortable with your breasts! Breast massage and monthly breast self examinations allow you to familiarize yourself with how your breasts look or feel so that you can be aware of any changes.

5 steps to a breast self-examination:

1. With your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips, observe your breasts in the mirror.

  • Are they the usual size, shape, and color?

  • Are they evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling?

  • Is there any dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin?

  • Has a nipple changed position or inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)?

  • Is there any redness, soreness, rash, or swelling?

2.  Raise your arms and observe for the same changes.

3. Are there any signs of discharge from the nipple (watery, milky, yellow fluid or blood).

4. While lying down, use your right hand to feel your left breast and your left hand to feel your right breast. Use 2-3 finger pads with a firm, smooth touch. Keep your fingers flat and together. Use a quarter sized circular motion,.

Ensure that you examine the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side (collarbone to ribcage,  cleavage to arm pit).

Choose a movement pattern of self examination 

  • SWIRL movement: beginning at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast.
  • STRAIGHT UP + DOWN movement: move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn.
Ensure that you feel from the front to the back of your breasts. Use light pressure for the skin, medium pressure for the middle of your breasts and firm pressure for the deep tissue. You will feel your ribcage when you've reached the deep tissue.

 

5.  Feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Try the shower or bath. Use the same movements as in step 4.

Get comfortable talking about breast health. Get acquainted and comfortable touching your breasts.  Perform breast massage and monthly breast self exams. Early detection saves lives. 

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