Healthy Life: Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How do I do a self breast exam?

I often get asked how to do a proper breast self-exam. While I am not a doctor nor an expert, I was taught by my GP how to do a breast exam. As you may know from hearing my story in the past, I found my lump on my own the night before a family vacation. While I fully intended on getting my lump checked immediately, I could not as I was in LA for close to a week, and then the next few days I was in Quebec for dance with my daughter. While away I would do exams daily to see if my lump had changed at all. Sadly it did not go away, and I saw the doctor the day after I got home.

While ultrasounds and mammograms can help you detect cancer before you can feel a lump, a breast self-exam accounts for 40% of diagnosed cancer.

Because of this, it is important to become familiar with your breasts (insert spouse joke here… “I’ll do your exam for you”) so that you can become aware of any changes.

A full exam should be done both standing and lying down.

When standing:

-Using the tips/pads of your fingers, move around your whole breast in a circular motion, checking the whole breast including the armpit. Start from the outside and make your way in towards the nipple.

-Visually inspect yourself in the mirror as well. Flex your pectoral muscles and observe changes.

When lying down:

-Place a pillow under your shoulder, and place that same hand behind your head. Using the opposite hand, do your exam as you did while standing (circular motions, including the armpit). Use both medium and firm pressure on the same breast so you can get the “full picture”. Squeeze your nipple as well.

-Repeat on the other side.

What are you looking for? Changes in size, lumps, dimpling, hardening of skin, and discharge from the nipple.

If you are still not comfortable with doing your exam, or you have any doubts, make an appointment with your GP or a breast specialist. They can show you how to properly check yourself, and even have fake breasts with lumps in them so you know what to look for.

If you do find a lump or abnormality, take a deep breath. Not all lumps are cancerous. In fact, most are not. Make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Do an ultrasound and do a biopsy. Take charge of your health. If you ignore it, it will not go away. Be proactive and know your breasts!

Joy Rodgers is a working mom who, we can now say, is a cancer survivor!! This is the story of her journey...

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