examples of self-exam breast tissue

How Should A Breast Self-Exam Be Performed?

My own experience with a breast lump is very different from Shelly’s. We thought it would be good to hear both sides of what can happen when you find a lump in your breast.

My husband found my lump, even though I do monthly breast checks. It was as if it had come out of nowhere, which scared both of us. I made an appointment to see my general practitioner to have it evaluated. She sent me to have a mammogram and ultrasound. She told me that most of the time it was nothing, but that I needed to rule out any possibility of cancer.

I made my appointment and tried my best not to be too stressed out. I had my mammogram and the doctor came in and read the film with me right then. I went into another room and had an ultrasound and the doctor came in again to look. I got dressed and was told that everything looked good, but I would have to come back every 6 months for 2 years before they would give me a clean bill of health. I was to monitor the size and if it was growing in size I should come back in for a biopsy.

I had 3 mammograms and ultrasounds and there was no advancement in size, so I was given the go ahead to not have a 4th round of tests. I was told that they believed my lump to be fibrocystic lump. I continue to monitor the size of my lump.

Our experiences do not tell the full range of symptoms or issues that can develop with breast lumps. There are many different types of breast conditions that affect women and men. The majority of which are not cancer, but the fear of cancer can sometimes make us want to avoid finding out. Rosemary Gladstar summed up my feelings about this best –

‘I do not underestimate the present threat of breast cancer, and I encourage women to do self-examinations of their breasts on a regular basis. But I also advocate doing these examinations in a positive and empowering manner. Breast exams should be a life-affirming experience, geared toward training us to recognize normal breast tissue and teaching us to appreciate and honor our breasts and the rhythms and cycles they go through…We seldom slow down enough to acknowledge our bodies. The need for breast exams allows us to touch, feel, and appreciate the beauty of our own unique breasts and what they represent.’

Rosemary Gladstar

How Should A Breast Self-Exam Be Performed?

  1. In the Shower
    With the pads/flats of your 3 middle fingers, check the entire breast and armpit area pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, hardened knot, or any other changes.

  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.
  1. 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 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.

    I hope that you don’t avoid doing your self breast exams and make it a beautiful ritual for yourself. I really believe it is the ultimate in self care.

For more information regarding screening and early detection visit the Susan G. Komen website.

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