One of the best ways to detect cancer at home is by following the American Cancer Societies guidelines for self breast exams. If you are unsure of how to complete one on yourself, they do have information that you can call and have them send to you. You can also request it from their website: www.cancer.org
Begining in a woman’s 20’s, they should begin doing breast self exams. Women should become aware of how their breasts look and feel, and should report any changes that they notice to their health care professional. I have been noticing on a lot of boards and such that women are questioning how one should do a breast self exam. I decided to go through all of the various methods, and try to make it as easy as possible, and list it here.
This is how to proform such an exam:
1. Lie down and place your right arm behind your head.The exam is done while lying down, and not standing up. This is because when lying down the breast tissue spreads evenly over the chest wall and it is as thin as possible, making it much easier to feel all the breast tissue.
2. Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue.
3. Use 3 different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal. If you’re not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse. Use each pressure level to feel the breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.
4. Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone.(sternum or breastbone). Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).
5. There is some evidence to suggest that the up and down pattern (sometimes called the vertical pattern) is the most effective pattern for covering the entire breast without missing any breast tissue.
6. Repeat the exam on your left breast, using the finger pads of the right hand.
7. While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, dimpling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin. (The pressing down on the hips position contracts the chest wall muscles and enhances any breast changes.)
8. Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it difficult to examine.
Also, if you notice any dimpling, discharge, or inversion of the tissue, areola, or nipple please contact your health care professional at once and have them give you a thorough examination. If you notice any lump or suspicious area, please notify your health care professional at once to schedule you for an examination.
One thing to remember, is that even though you do this, it does not replace the importance of screening mammograms and seeing your physician on a regular basis. By the time you can feel a lump or change in your breast, the growth is most likely about 1.0cm in dimension. Of course there is no one that knows your body better then yourself, so if you think you feel something, make sure you contact your health care provider at once to follow up with.