Breast Cancer Awareness: How to conduct a self-exam plus what to do next if you think you find something

While most women are aware that regularly examining their breasts for lumps can be an important way to find breast cancer early. But there are many other signs of breast cancer that can help you find out as early as possible if you have it. Learning the three ways you should be conducting a self-exam could give you an invaluable tool to detect breast cancer as early as possible.

How To Conduct An Exam

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, there are three separate times you should conduct a breast exam around once a week:

1) In the Shower 

Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2) In Front of a Mirror 

Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

3) Lying Down

When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

When Should You See A Doctor?

If you think you found something, don’t panic. There are a lot of reasons that could explain the change that doesn’t involve cancer (such as aging, hormones, injury, etc). But you need to see a doctor make absolutely certain that it’s not worth investigating. If it is concerning, they might recommend a mammogram, ultrasound, or bloodwork to be sure.