Most breast cancers are self-discovered by women who know their body and take time out to keep it in check. Every woman should examine her breasts every month. The best time to do so is about a week after the end of your menstrual period, when the breasts are usually not tender or swollen. If you do find a lump, discharge, or dimple, see your doctor as soon as possible. Most lumps or changes do not necessarily mean cancer; however, only a doctor can make that diagnosis and should be given the chance to do so.
There are several ways to self-examine the breasts; a combination is recommended.
While taking a bath or shower, place your left hand behind your head while using your right hand to glide over your left breast. With fingers flat, move gently over every part of your breast to check for any lump, hard knot, or thickening. Subsequently, use the other arm to do the opposite side.
Stand before a mirror and inspect your breasts; first with arms at your sides, then with your arms raised high above your head. Look for any changes in the shape of each breast, a swelling, dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipple. When you have completed that task, rest your palms on your hips and press down firmly to flex your chest muscles. Your left and right breast may not exactly match (only a few women’s breast do) but that is not a factor regarding tissue abnormalities. You should take time out to know your body – physically, that way you will be able to notice changes when they occur.
Lie on a bed with a pillow or folded towel placed under your right shoulder. Place your right hand behind your head; this distributes breast tissues more evenly on the chest. With left hand, fingers flat, press gently in small circular motions around an imaginary clock face. Begin at outermost top of your right breast for 12 o’clock, then move to 1 o’clock, and so on around the clock back to 12. A ridge of firm tissue in the lower curve of each breast is normal. Move in an inch, toward the nipple, and keep circling to examine every part of your breast, including the nipple. This requires at least three more circles to complete every area of your breast. Repeat this procedure on your left breast with a pillow under your left shoulder and your left hand behind your head.
Finally, squeeze the nipple of each breast gently between thumb and index finger. Any discharge, clear or bloody, should be reported to a doctor immediately. Early detection is important in the fight against breast cancer, and the surest way to detect abnormalities early is to check consistently every month.