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Breast Self-Exam: How To

Dr. Linda Proctor, radiologist at MoBap Breast Center, talks about the importance of breast cancer screenings, self exams, and early detection.

Breasts come in all sizes and shapes, just as women do. Your own breasts will even change throughout your life. Your monthly menstrual cycle and menopause, childbirth, breastfeeding, age, weight changes, and birth control pills or other hormones may change the shape, size, and feel of your breasts.

Breast self-exam is done once a month so that you become familiar with the usual appearance and feel of your own breasts. The best time to do a breast self-exam is two to three days after the end of your period, when your breasts are less likely to be tender or swollen.

If you discover anything unusual, such as lumps, discharge from the nipple or dimpling or puckering of the skin, you should see your doctor at once. Remember, eight out of 10 biopsied breast lumps are not cancer.

To perform your breast self-exam:

  • Lie down on your back with a pillow under your left shoulder and your left arm above your head
  • Use the pads of the three middle fingers on your right hand to examine your left breast
  • Press in a circular motion -- once with light pressure, then once with medium pressure, then once with deep pressure
  • Press in an up and down pattern similar to mowing a lawn
  • Start in the middle of the underarm of your left side and move toward the middle of your chest
  • Feel for changes in your breast, such as any lumps or thickening of breast tissue
  • Be sure to check above and below your collarbone
  • Follow this procedure to check the right breast
  • Also, stand in front of a mirror and examine your breasts; with your hands on your hips, lift your hands over your head, and check for any changes in the look of your breasts
  • Finally, with your hands on your hips, press down and tense your chest muscles to make any changes more prominent

For more information on breast health, visit the Breast HealthCare Center at MoBap.

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