Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. There are an estimated 2.5 million breast cancer SURVIVORS! Death rates from breast cancer have been declining since the early 1990s, and we believe this is attributed to early detection, proper screenings and increased awareness.  I encourage all of our patients to perform self-breast exams monthly.

In most females, breast tissue can be somewhat lumpy. When women are menstruating, they often experience increased breast discomfort and lumpiness. The ideal time to perform a breast exam or have a mammogram is during the first week after your menstrual cycle. The breast is comprised of milk secreting glands, milk ducts, fatty tissue and lymphatic tissue. There are two major components to a self-breast exam – inspection and palpation. Let’s review proper technique for both.

During inspection, a women should stand in front of the mirror observing the breast for any indentions, puckering, or dimpling of the skin. Start with your arms raised over your head, then with your hands squeezing your hips standing up straight and then leaning forward. Lastly, relax your arms at your side for the final phase of inspection.

Palpation is the portion of the breast exam many women feel the most uncomfortable performing, as they are unsure of what they’re doing. Start by lying down and placing your right arm above your head. Using the finger pads on your left hand, feel for lumps in the right breast. Use three different pressures – light, medium and firm. This will help feel tissue from the surface toward the skin to the tissue deep on the chest wall. Move your fingers around the breast in an up-and-down manner, covering the entire breast, noticing any changes of size, shape and contour. When you’re done with the right breast, repeat the exam of the left breast.

More than 75% of breast cancers are found by women themselves. I hope you find these instructions helpful for completing self-breast exams on a regular basis. If you have questions about pressure or technique, please speak with a provider on your next visit.
 
“We believe that knowledge is power. Patients are able to take control of their healthcare through increased education given by compassionate providers.”
– Natalie Wellington, APRN, NP-C, OCN