How to Perform a Home Breast Exam
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women. Though the risk for men being diagnosed with breast cancer is very low, men should also be diligent about reporting any changes to their breasts. Because breast cancer risk is so high in women and because it's important for a woman to know her own breasts, so that she would immediately recognize a change, self breast exams should be a mandatory part of every woman's weekly routine. Statistically speaking, black women appear to have more incidences of breast cancer before the age of 45, and white women appear to have more incidences after the age of 45. According to studies, white women also die more often from breast cancer. In families with a history of breast cancer, women who breastfeed their babies have a 59 percent less chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
When to Begin Self Breast Examinations
The suggested time to begin self breast exams is around the age of 20. At that time it is suspected that a woman's breasts will be completely formed. The idea is to know how your breasts look and feel so that, should a change occur, you will recognize it immediately. Any unusual thickening, lumps or bumps, dips or puckers should be reported to your physician immediately. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 465,000 women died worldwide in 2006 from this disease, but due to self breast exams the number is expected to get smaller each year.
How to Perform a Self Breast Exam
Start by barring your breasts and standing in front of a mirror with your arms at your side, behind your head, on your hips with your chest muscles flexed, and also with your arms out to the sides. Look at your breasts from the front and from both sides while performing each exercise.
Next, place a pillow on a flat surface, such as the bed or the floor. Lie on the pillow so that it is just under your right shoulder. Now bend your right arm behind your head and use the first three fingers on your left hand as a guide, working in small circles that move ever closer to the nipple. Do the same exercise on a flat surface without a pillow. Then follow up with the left side, performing both exercises with a pillow and without.
When you have finished with each breast, squeeze the nipple to check for discharge. T
he reason it's important to lie down rather than stand while performing a home breast exam has to do with gravity. Lying down allows the breast to spread out over the chest wall. Essentially, the thinner the breast, the easier it is for you to conduct the exam. The area that should be covered during this exam is from the collarbone all the way to the second rib beneath the breasts and also to the middle of each armpit.
The exam should also be performed in and up and down motion. In other words, begin making small circles at the collarbone and work your way downward using three different forms of pressure: Light, medium and firm. Women with implants should also conduct breast exams. After getting the implants, ask your physician to show you exactly where the implants end and where actual breast tissue begins.