Conducting a self-breast exam is critical in spotting breast cancer early and treating it successfully. Though it is impossible to rely on one test alone to detect every kind of breast cancer, by performing self-exams and using screening methods such as mammograms, you increase your chances of early detection.
Understanding that breast self-examination is an essential screening tool in conjunction with physical exams, this article provides you with all you need to know about self-breast exams. After all, board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Josh Waltzman in Long Beach, CA, studied at the Cleveland Clinic and is a specialist in breast surgery.
In general, there are five basic steps to conducting a self-breast exam.
Stand in front of your mirror, shoulders straight and hands on your hips. Here is what to look for:
If you notice any of the following, contact Dr. Waltzman:
Raise your arms over your head and look for these same characteristics from this position.
Check to see if any fluid is coming out of your nipples.
While lying flat on your back, place your right hand behind your head and use your left hand to feel your right breast, and vice versa. Keeping your fingertips together, use a firm, smooth touch. In a circular motion, check the breast, beginning from your collarbone to your abdomen. Also, check from your armpit down to your cleavage. Continue to feel for any abnormalities. Begin with the nipple and extend to the outer edge of the breast. Using an up-and-down approach allows you to check the breast tissue thoroughly. Continue feeling for irregularities in the breast tissue from the front to the back of the breast and down to your ribcage.
Using the same motions as in step four, examine your breasts, either standing up or sitting down. You may also wish to do this in the shower, since your fingers will slide more readily across wet skin.
If you believe you’ve found a lump or abnormality in your breast, do not panic. Know that non-cancerous breast lumps can occur due to hormones, injury, and other benign conditions. Hormone changes during your menstrual cycle could lead to breast swelling due to increases in estrogen levels, which cause the breast ducts to grow.
For any new lump, call your doctor, especially if it appears after your last menstrual cycle. Plan a visit to the medical professional who performed your previous breast exam. Be adamant about getting answers, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
Physical exams by a doctor will require your health history, a physical breast exam, and breast imaging tests. You will have an ultrasound performed, and if you are over 30, your health provider may suggest a mammogram as well. A physician might also recommend MRIs, molecular breast imaging, and breast surgeon referrals for any suspected condition needing further evaluation.
Taking proactive measures to ensure the health of your breasts is critical to maintaining your health. Reach out to us at The Waltzman Institute and book a session with Dr. Waltzman by calling (562) 448-6100 or filling out our online form. Take control of your health and connect with us today!