How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

About 1 in 8 women in the United States develops breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer is the second-most common type of cancer in women, and while it can’t be prevented, proactive care is critical.

Why? Because breast cancer that’s identified early has more treatment options and a greater chance of survival. In fact, when localized breast cancer is detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate is 99%.

Regular well-woman exams and mammograms are the best way to protect yourself from breast cancer, but there’s also something you can do at home: breast self-examinations.

At The Women's Center, our team is committed to helping women achieve their best health. We work with women of all ages, providing breast cancer screenings and teaching them how to perform breast self-exams at home.

Steps of a breast self-exam

The purpose of breast self-exams is to familiarize yourself with your breasts, so you can recognize changes that may indicate breast cancer. 

Feel for changes

While standing, lift one arm above your head. Using the pads of your middle fingers, check your breast and armpit with medium pressure. Feel for changes like lumps, patches of thicker tissue, or a hard knot. Repeat on the other side.

Next, lie down on your back. Place one arm behind your head and use the other hand to feel for any changes in your breast tissue or armpit area. Check your nipple for discharge and lumps, then repeat on the other side.

Look for changes

Finally, stand in front of a mirror for a visual exam. Start with your arms at your sides, then raise them above your head. Look for swelling, dimpling, puckering, or changes in the shape of your breasts or in your nipples as you move.

When to do breast self-exams

The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends that all adult women should do breast self-exams monthly. Making a habit of self-exams is a great way to familiarize yourself with your body and identify any new changes.

If you notice anything unusual, such as a lump, pain, or changes in the way your breast looks or feels, make an appointment to have a professional breast exam. Our team specializes in identifying signs of breast cancer, and we can help you determine the next steps you should take.

Remember that self-exams can help you recognize changes early, but these exams aren’t a replacement for regular medical care. It’s still important to get annual well-woman exams.

Beginning at age 45, every woman should get annual mammograms to lower their risk of breast cancer. Mammograms are breast X-rays that can detect tumors even before they can be felt.

Breast cancer is common, but there’s a lot you can do to protect your health. Learn more about lowering your risk of breast cancer with a consultation at The Women’s Center. Call the Orlando, Florida-area office nearest you or request an appointment online now.

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