October is Breast Cancer Awareness month! This month we have touched on avoidable and unavoidable risk factors of breast cancer as well as three very important and recommended steps women can follow to proactively increase their chances of early breast cancer detection. One of those steps included the Self Breast Exam or SBE. While this test may seem like common sense, many run through it without being fully aware of their body and possible changes. Here are some details of how the test should be performed:
1) In the Shower- This is used as a rule of thumb because it is an easy way to train yourself to routinely perform your exam. Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Be very aware of your body and notice when there are any changes and have the lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
2) In Front of a Mirror- Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women's breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
3) Lying Down- When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
Routine self breast exams can help detect whether you might need a mammogram before your regular screening. Speak with your primary physician immediately for any concerns or changes in the breasts.