Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2011: Breast Self Exams The Right Way

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: October 14, 2011

Although breast self exams are not recommended as a screening tool for breast cancer, becoming familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel is important. If you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms, ask your health care provider to examine the area. Breast self examinations should not replace regular clinical breast examinations by a doctor and mammograms.

Timing is everything – The best time to perform a breast self exam is 7-10 days after the start of your period, or 1-3 days after the end of it. If you mark your calendar, you can perform a breast self exam the same time every month and will know how your breast tissue feels at that time of the month. Changes will be easier detected.

Moisturize as you go – Lotion or even personal lubricant can make it easier for your fingers to slide over your skin. It makes your fingers more sensitive and moisturizes as you go. Why not make it like a little mini massage?

Mirror, mirror on the wall – Don’t shoot blindly! Watch and keep track of where you’ve already checked by standing in front of a mirror. Also look for any changes in size, shape or position, or any changes to the skin. Pick up on any puckering, dimpling, sores or discoloration of the nipples.

The fab four positions – There are four breast self exam positions you should be aware of. First, both arms at your sides and look. Second, one arm over your head with one arm on the breast you’re checking. Third, one hand on your hip while the other is checking. Fourth, lean forward toward the mirror and look.

Like a pizza pie – Begin at the nipple and move away in straight lines, like you’re cutting a pizza. Keep fingers flat and in constant contact with your breast. When the circle is complete, move out one inch from the nipple and complete another circle around the pie. Continue until you’ve felt the entire breast.

Many women have a pattern of lumpiness in their breasts, which is normal. Breast tissue is inherently bumpy. For some women, the bumpiness is more pronounced than for others. In most cases, bumpy or lumpy and you don’t need to worry. It’s most likely normal breast tissue. If you discover any new breast changes, including the following, contact your health care provider:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

A mammogram can find breast cancer before it can be felt. When combined with a clinical breast exam, the chances for finding cancer are even greater. And, finding cancer early can save your life. For women age 40 and over, Red Hot Mamas recommends a clinical breast exam and mammography every year.

Learn more about Breast Health at Menopause
How much do you know about breast cancer?
Mammograms at Menopause