Doing a self exam on your breasts monthly may be the most important thing that you could do for yourself. The American Cancer Society recommends that women should start checking themselves in their twenties. Knowing your own breasts could help you to find any changes well before it is time for a mammogram.
When doing self exams on your breasts it is important to do checks by feel and by sight, and at the same time each month. The new recommended way to do a self check on your breasts is to lie down, this helps to spread the breast tissue out thinner so it is easier to feel any anomalies. The self breast exam is best performed a few days after your menstrual cycle ends, breasts can be swollen and tender during your cycle and doing the exam at this time means that something may be missed.
To exam your left breast, put your left arm behind your head and using the three middle fingers on your right hand begin by using slight pressure and circular motions to check your breast starting at the nipple and working your way out, do the opposite for your right breast. It is best if you do this with varying pressure to feel any lumps that lie further under the skin. Use this circular motion all the way around your breast down to the bottom of your rib cage, up to your collar bone, and out to your arm pit.
To do the visual test on your breasts you need to be standing in front of a mirror, and place your hands firmly on your hips. Look for any dimples in your skin, this could be a sign of something grower deeper which will stretch and dimple. Slightly raise your arm so you can see if there are any lumps or differences, and also feel for any lumps.
After a few self exams you will know what your breasts feel like, and you will notice any differences much faster than waiting for a yearly exam. If you do find that something feels different it does not necessarily mean that there is a problem, but go to your doctor and have them check, they will send you for further testing if they feel it is required.
Remember Breast Cancer Awareness month is October, remind your family and friends to do their checks and to go for their mammograms.