Breast Self-Examination: Tips and Techniques for Early Detection

Apr 17, 2023
Breast Self-Examination: Tips and Techniques for Early Detection
Hello, Warriors! Welcome to The Breast Place blog and thank you for taking time out of your active schedule to visit! We appreciate our readers to the utmost degree, as we do our patients.

Hello, Warriors! Welcome to The Breast Place blog and thank you for taking time out of your active schedule to visit! We appreciate our readers to the utmost degree, as we do our patients. If this is your first visit to The Breast Place blog, we welcome you. We cover a range of topics here. From breast cancer management to anti-aging skin treatments to helpful tips for maximizing your overall health and wellness—The Breast Place is committed to sharing the best health practices and treatment options with you! Our offices are open and our staff is prepared to answer any questions you may have about your health, your breast cancer risk, and how to reach your aesthetic goals. 

At The Breast Place, we offer several oncoplastic surgical procedures, such as natural reconstruction, nipple-sparing mastectomy, Hidden Scar™, and implant removals. Oncoplastic surgery is distinct from both breast cancer surgery and plastic surgery–though you initially assume oncoplastic surgery to be a mixture of both. Rather, the aim of oncoplastic breast surgery is “to achieve good aesthetic outcomes for women with breast cancers who would have unacceptable outcomes with other BCS techniques, and in addition, enable breast-conserving surgery for larger breast cancers.” While breast cancer surgery prioritizes the eradication of cancerous tissue and plastic surgery prioritizes the cosmetic appearance of the breasts, oncoplastic surgery takes both of these aspects into account when planning for the final outcome. You can find out more information about what to look for in an Oncoplastic surgeon here. 

In our last post, we discussed breast cancer and what causes it. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, besides skin cancers. Many women have questions or concerns about their breasts and their risk of developing breast cancer. We discussed exactly what breast cancer is, how it forms, the types of breast cancer, risk factors, and more. If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to check out our last post!

Before we get into today’s topic, we’d like to make you aware of what we have to offer at The Breast Place this month. It’s April and we are in the midst of Spring! We hope you are enjoying the weather– Don’t forget your sunscreen! This month, we are offering Botox and Xeomin for just $10 per unit, as well as 20% off Grande Lash products! We are so excited to share these specials with you. Treat yourself this Spring by taking advantage of these great deals!

Today, we’ll be talking about breast self-examinations. As we’ve mentioned previously, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S., so it is important that we are proactive when it comes to detecting the signs and symptoms. There are a few ways that we can do this. First, it is important that we educate ourselves on the signs of breast cancer, as well as our risk factors. Next, we must be sure to get our yearly mammograms, if applicable. The American Cancer Society recommends that mammograms begin at age 40, but your medical provider may recommend them at an earlier age, based on your family history, genetics, or other factors. (A mammogram is one of the best ways to detect breast cancer early. Be sure to check out our previous blog to learn more about them!) Finally, it is important that we perform regular breast self-examinations. This, in combination with other screening methods, can increase the odds of early detection. If you are interested in learning more about breast self-exams, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.

Understanding Breast Self-Exams: How to Perform Them and Why They Matter

A breast self-exam refers to a screening method in which a woman regularly examines her own breasts at home. While this is a convenient, no-cost screening method that can be used at any age, it is important to remember that these self-exams are more effective when combined with other methods, such as mammograms, regular physical exams by a doctor, and other types of breast imaging. A breast self-exam should not be a replacement for a clinical breast exam (performed by a doctor) or any type of breast imaging. However, it is important that you are familiar with your breasts, so that you can detect any changes and report them to your doctor for further evaluation.

Timing Your Breast Self-Exams: Tips for Optimal Results and Accuracy

It is recommended to perform a breast self-exam around the same time each month. If you are still menstruating (AKA having a regular period), it is recommended to perform your breast self-exam about a week after your period ends. This is because your hormone levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and can cause changes in breast tissue. Your breasts should feel less tender at this time, and are less likely to feel lumpy. If you have stopped menstruating (after menopause) or have irregular periods, pick a day to perform your breast self-exam each month. Try to pick a day that is easy to remember, such as the last day of the month, or your favorite number.

So, how do you perform a breast self-exam? It is simple and should only take you a few minutes, making it easy to incorporate into your daily routine. For example, it can be done before getting dressed, after getting undressed, or even in the shower. Let’s go over each step thoroughly.

Step 1: Visual Examination

First, sit or stand shirtless and braless in front of a mirror, looking straight ahead. Keep your arms at your sides and visually inspect your breasts. Here are some things you should be looking for:

  • Changes in breast shape or size
  • Breast swelling
  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or become inverted
  • Redness or rash
  • Any signs of breast fluid coming from one or both nipples

Now, place your hands on your hips, keeping your shoulders straight, and look for any changes. Then, raise your arms above your head and look for the same things. Finally, put your hands back on your hips and press firmly, making your chest muscles flex. Look for the same changes, and be sure you are looking at both breasts. 

Step 2: Manual Inspection 

Once you have completed the visual examination, you will use your hands to examine your breasts. Use your right hand to examine your left breast, and vice versa. Use the pads of your three middle fingers to press on every part of the breast. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. This will allow you to feel different depths of the breast and breast tissue. Some women find it helpful to use a circular pattern to be sure to check every spot. Press down and move your fingers in a circular motion that is about the size of a quarter. Be sure to take your time with this as you feel for changes such as lumps. You should check the entire breast, top to bottom and side to side, and up to the tissue of your underarm. Once you have finished, repeat these steps on the other breast. 

Next, you should perform the same inspection while lying down. When you are lying down, your breast tissue spreads out more evenly, which can help you feel for changes. Lie down and place a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. Use your left hand and repeat the same techniques as the inspection you completed while standing up. Be sure to check under the areola and squeeze the nipple gently to check for discharge. 

Once you have completed steps one and two, you have successfully performed a breast self-exam! If you are confused or have any questions, you can always ask your doctor or another medical professional for a demonstration. If you find any unusual lumps or changes in your breasts, be sure to consult your doctor. We hope you found this article helpful, and we encourage you to reach out to us for a consultation with one of our licensed breast specialists! We also encourage you to check out our aesthetics and wellness clinic, Empower, which is dedicated to helping you feel more confident in your skin. Empower offers injectable treatments such as Botox, and other facial rejuvenation services such as laser treatment and more! Additionally, we strongly encourage you to reach out to us for a consultation if you have any questions or concerns pertaining to our service areas– We are committed to empowering women, and we are proud to offer treatments and products to help you look and feel your best. Thank you for taking the time to read today’s article and we hope you’ll check back in for future posts about treatments, wellness, and more!