Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 5 Steps To Do A Breast Self Examination

Ireyimika Oyegbami
The month of October is annually dedicated to increasing awareness on breast cancer. This annual campaign is necessary to remind women all over the world, and men too, to regularly check their breasts and underarm in order to allow for early detection of this disease which is said to be the second leading cause of death among women.

In addition to self examining one’s breast, regular clinical examinations should be carried out and women who are considered to be at risk should routinely go for a mammography test. Early detection is important in getting an effective treatment. The following steps tell us how to self examine our breast to check for tell-tale changes;

Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror that is large enough for you to see your breasts with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Look intently at your breasts and check to see that they are their usual size, shape and colour. Also check that they are evenly shaped and have no visible swelling. However, if you notice any swelling, dimpling, rash, redness, soreness or that a nipple has become inverted (meaning the nipple is pushing inward instead of sticking out) then you should bring your observations to the attention of your doctor.

Step 2: Now raise your hands and clasp them behind your head, bring you hands forward still checking for any of the changes outlined in step 1.

Step 3: While still standing before the mirror, look for signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples. Gently squeeze each nipple to see if any fluid other than breast milk comes out.

Step 4: Afterwards, lie face up on a flat bed while using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand while keeping your fingers flat. You may either use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter or up and down lines. Make sure you cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. Some women use lotion or powder to enable their fingers glide more smoothly.

It is important to thoroughly check the space between the breast and the underarm and the underarm itself. Feel for any lump or mass under the skin. To feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.

Step 5: End your breast self examination by feeling your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find it easier to feel their breasts when the skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Go over your entire breast, using the same hand movements described above in step 4.
If you find a lump

Do not panic. It might not be cancerous, only a doctor can tell if it is after all. The lumpiness might be caused by menstrual changes; remember the essence of regular breast self examination is to know what is usual for your breast. If there is an unusual change such as skin dimpling or a discharge from the nipple which is not breast milk, please see your doctor in good time.

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“Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 5 Steps To Do A Breast Self Examination”