15 Nov

How to Do a Breast Exam and When to See Your Doctor

Whether you think about breast cancer or the thought never crosses your mind, it’s devastating when it happens. You may not be able to avoid breast cancer, but with early treatment you have a better chance of dealing with it before it spreads. Along with mammograms and ultrasounds as needed, the best way to find problems early is to do a monthly breast exam on your own. Here’s what you need to know.

Doing a Breast Exam

You can check your breasts while taking a shower. Simply move the pads of your fingers in a circular motion from outside to inside around your entire breast. Another way is to stand in front of a mirror. Look closely at your breasts, then raise your arms high, and look again. Now, flex your chest muscles and look one more time.

To do a breast exam lying down, put a pillow under your right shoulder. Then, place your right arm above your head. Finally, use your left hand and move your fingers in a circular motion around the entire breast and into the armpit. 

In any of these methods, vary the way you touch your breasts. Use different levels of pressure, and squeeze your nipples. 

Look for Changes

So what are you looking for during a breast exam? The key to discovering problems is to note changes. Your first breast exam might feel like a waste because you don’t already know what your breasts are like. It’s okay. By repeating the exam every month, you’ll learn very quickly. Here’s what to notice as you’re doing the exam:

  • Lumps
  • Thickening
  • Knots
  • Discharge from the nipples
  • Swelling
  • Dimpling

If you notice any changes, you need to talk to your doctor to get evaluated for breast cancer. While everything changes as you get older, the changes you’re noticing may be signs that your health is in danger. The only way to be certain is to talk to your internist.