Breast Cancer Awareness is not just for the month of October. Conducting a monthly breast-self exam is a crucial part of good breast health. Like with any other parts of your body, you want to do a monthly BSE to look and feel for changes in your breasts. This means knowing your breasts, being aware of their changes or anything unusual.
According to the WebMD, 8 out of 10 breast lumps found during BSEs are benign (not-cancerous). However, it also reported that 70 percent of cancers are found through self-examination. It’s definitely worthwhile to understand and conduct regular breast exams as you make your way into your 20s. It’s now that we learn to take a stake in our own health.
While we are not medical experts, here is easy steps you can follow at home to conduct a BSE. Please contact your gynecologist right away if you see any abnormal changes in your breasts.
Conduct a Breast-Self Exam in five easy steps:
- Visually examine your breasts in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips. Ask yourself if you breasts are dimpled, bigger/smaller or changed in shape. Do you see any discharge from the nipples or redness and scaling surround that area? Now, look at your underarms for any hard lumps or visible swelling. Put your arms up and notice what you see now.
- Next, lie on your back. This will typically allow your breast tissue to fall evenly over your chest. Then put your right arm above your head. Use the pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to slow start examining your right breast. Use an up-and-down motion beginning at your underarm and slowly moving all the way across your breast. It is typically advised to use light pressure for the skin and tissue just beneath; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of the breast; and use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. Often, you should be able to feel your rib cage when you are touching the deep tissue of the breast. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your rib cage. Do you feel anything sharp, a thickening, or a texture that feels different from other parts of your breast?
- When you’ve completed step two, repeat it for the left side.
- Now stand back up, and put your right hand straight up, and feel your breasts in that same up-and-down motion.
- Finally, repeat step four for the left side.
If you find anything that feels unusual or looks to be irregular for you, visit your gynecologist. Do not be afraid or shy to ask your doctor how to conduct a BSE or have him/her check your own personal technique.
For menstruating women/ women of reproductive age, conduct your exam a few days after your period ends. Post-menopausal women can do their BSE any day of the month. It may take you a while to get the hang of a BSE, because it may feel weird at first. It might even feel uncomfortable, but keeping in tune with your body, and giving it care and attention is not just good practice for wellness and prevention, but it can truly save your life.
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Vaidehi Mujumdar is an aspiring physician, writer, and researcher based in Washington DC. She’s a contributing writer for India.com’s US Edition. Her work has been published in The Guardian, The Feminist Wire, Media Diversified, and others. See more of Vaidehi’s work on her website.