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Breast Self Examination

Finding breast cancer early increases a woman’s chances of surviving the disease. Mammograms and clinical breast exams by their healthcare provider are two of the three tools women have at their disposal to detect cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage. The third tool is self-examination.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says you should know what is normal for your breasts. ACOG recommends lying down with a pillow under your right shoulder and placing your right arm behind your head. Using the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand, feel around for any lumps in the right breast. Press firmly but gently. If you’re not sure how hard to press, talk with a health care professional to learn the correct technique.

You can either move up and down or in a circular motion going outward from the nipple. Just make sure you cover the entire breast, chest and armpit area. You’re checking for:

  • lumps
  • changes in appearance including puckering and dimples
  • changes in size or shape
  • pushed-in or misshapen nipples

Reverse arm positions and repeat this procedure on your left breast.

You can also examine your breasts while standing, with your one arm behind your head. Again, make sure you cover the entire breast, as well as the chest and armpit area. You can do this standing examination in the shower. You might also want to check your breasts this way by standing in front of a mirror so you can look for any changes in the appearance of your breasts such as swelling or dimpling.

If you find any lumps or changes in the breast’s feel or appearance, see a doctor right away. Although many lumps turn out to be non-cancerous, it’s essential to avoid delays in getting professional advice and treatment.

Remember, when found early, breast cancer is mostly treatable. The correct use of self-examination, professional exams and mammography can help provide the best chance for survival of breast cancer.