As a woman, taking regular steps to monitor your reproductive health is a key aspect of maintaining your overall health and wellness. It’s important that you educate yourself and stay up to date on the most recent recommendations from women’s healthcare experts.
If you’re not already, you should be scheduling a yearly visit to the gynecologist to check in on your reproductive well-being. In addition to your annual appointment, there are measures you can take in between visits to keep an eye on your sexual health—including a self-breast exam.
Below is the essential information you need to complete a thorough and effective examination!
Why are self-breast exams important?
Before we guide you through the process of a self-breast examination, you should understand why it’s so important to perform them regularly. Routinely checking your breasts helps you better detect any lumps, abnormalities, or other potential issues early, before they become a bigger problem.
Ideally, self-exams should be completed once a month around the same time in your cycle (for the most accurate comparison). This will help you get familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, so you’ll notice if something changes and can address it sooner rather than later.
*Please remember that self-exams do NOT replace regular mammograms or women’s well visits, but rather are a supplemental preventative health measure*
3 Steps to a Self-Breast Examination:
1) Begin by checking your breasts in a mirror.
Undress from the waist up and stand in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and arms at your side. Study your reflection, looking to see if your breasts are their usual color, size, and shape. Then, raise your arms overhead and check your armpit area. Continue to look and begin feeling for changes in contour or nipple position, swelling, skin dimpling or puckering, redness, soreness or rash.
2) Next, feel for lumps while lying down.
Laying flat spreads your breast tissue more evenly, making lumps and bumps easier to detect. Check one breast at a time, bringing the arm on the side you’re checking above your head to rest. Use the fingertips of your opposite hand to feel the entire breast and armpit area in an up and down or circular motion.
As you’re feeling your breast, vary between light, moderate, and firm pressure to be sure you’re inspecting every layer of tissue (from surface through deep tissue). Squeeze your nipple to check for discharge as well. Repeat the same process for your other breast.
3) Lastly, examine your breasts while standing or sitting up straight.
To ensure you’re examining your breasts thoroughly, it’s important that you check them in several different positions. After your mirror check and flat exam, repeat the process from the step above while standing or sitting upright. Most women find it easier to do this with wet or slippery skin, so a good spot to try it is in the shower.
When should I call a doctor after a self-breast exam?
If you find a lump or other significant change during a self-exam, it’s best that you call your doctor to discuss it and/or set up an appointment. There’s no need to panic—a majority of breast lumps turn out to be benign—but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Prevention and early detection are key for any type of healthcare.
At South Avenue Women’s Services, we believe that every woman deserves discreet and quality care for all of her reproductive health needs. That’s why we employ a team of skilled and compassionate medical experts to provide the women’s wellness services you need.
Give us a call at 585-271-3850 to reach a clinician any time during business hours, or for an emergency through our answering service. We are here for your well-woman care needs!