Wedges, Circles And Zig Zag?
Regular breast examination can save your life. I firmly believe it helps to know, what is normal for you. Understand your breasts better, how do they feel, what do they look like? By knowing that, it means you will notice breast changes earlier, and that gives you more time to get the help you need.
It just a matter of letting go the fear that so often women feel, and many of us have had that experience. Starting a new habit, is like anything else in life. It needs to be done regularly to become second nature to us, and therefore part of your monthly routine forever.
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Your Visual Breast Examination
First stand in front of your mirror, with your arms by your sides. Have a good look at your breasts. Notice any dimpling? Do they look similar? Do they look even? Any breast discharge?
Now put your arms up, turning to view all the breast. See any puckering? What about a breast rash?
Place your hands on your hips and bend down slowly. See any indentations? Take time to have a decent look from all angles.
Next Comes Your Vertical Breast Self Exam
When you begin your breast examination standing up, place your left arm across the back of your head.
You will use the three pads of your fingers of the right hand. You will be using a massaging, circular type of movement, using light, medium and firm pressure. It is a good idea to do the circular movements in varying sized circles, from small to larger, in each spot.
It is important to do the surrounding area of your breast, including under your breast, the sides of your breast and in the middle of your chest. The side area of your breast, leading up to your armpit, also needs to be checked thoroughly.
You do not want to miss any part of your breast and need to be doing your exam in a grid type pattern.
When you have your arm behind your head and are using the opposite pads of the fingers to massage in a circular motion, it helps to have some sort of grid in your mind, to examine yourself.
This is where you visually divide your breasts in to sections, or wedges. Imagine your breasts were a pie, and divide the pie into slices. You need to do a slice of the pie at a time, before moving on to the next slice.
When you are doing your breast self exam, you would start off in one particular breast area, with your left arm behind your head and using three finger pads of your right hand, doing your circular movements. Remember to vary the size of your movements and also the pressure. When you are finished with that area, move on to the next section. Continue until all the breast and surrounding area has been examined.
Some women do a circular style by starting off at their nipple, and going around and around their breast, with the circle getting wider each time, until the area has been examined. I found this pattern difficult as I kept losing track of where I had been - perhaps I was giddy!
Call me boring, but I much prefer this style. It is where I start in the middle of my chest and I go across my breast to my side, then back again, into the middle. When I have completed one side, I then repeat it on the other.
Nipples And Armpits
Part of your exam means checking your nipples. Forgive me ladies, but it is a good idea to squeeze your nipple as part of your self breast exam, to see if you have any nipple discharge. Check for a rash, sore, a lump, or anything that you might think unusual.
Whilst you are still standing, examine your armpit. This is where your lymph nodes are. You may be tender with swollen lymph nodes, but don't panic. This does not mean you have breast cancer. You can have swollen lymph nodes for many reasons. The hormonal roller coaster ride of your cycle, or when you are unwell, can be enough to make your lymph nodes feel tender. It is usually temporary.
Next Is Your Horizontal Self Breast Exam
OK, you have done your visual observation of your breasts and have completed a breast examination standing up. How are you feeling? You have done well to get to this point. You are almost finished. All you have left to do is to repeat your exam lying down.
There are various thoughts on doing your breast examination both standing and lying down. I, for one, think it is double checking. I have heard stories of women who have found their breast lump standing, but couldn't find it lying down, and vise versa. I tend to think you are increasing your chances of finding a breast lump, if you do both standing and lying down exams. Once you are more comfortable and familiar with your routine, you will do it a lot quicker.
Ok let's revise your breast examination
- Stand in front of the mirror, arms at sides
- Standing there, put your arms up, looking in the mirror.
- Hands on hips looking in the mirror.
- One arm over your head.
- Use three finger pads of the opposite hand.
- Do circular massaging movements.
- Apply different pressure, light, medium and firm.
- Do varying sized circular massaging motions, smaller to larger.
- Go over the area in a grid.
- Do the surrounding areas of the breast.
- Check the area leading to up to your armpit.
- Examine your armpit.
- Squeeze your nipple.
- Examine your nipple.
- Do breast examination lying down, repeating the above process.
Now all you need to know is
when to do your self breast exam.
If you need some extra support, ask your
partner to assist
you. It can often be reassuring to women, a bit of dutch courage to begin with.
Good luck. Don't rush, and don't worry if you feel overwhelmed and awkward. The first few times I did my self breast exam, I was bumble fingered and it took ages. I soon learnt to take the phone off the hook so I could concentrate! But the more I did my breast exam, the faster I became. Now it is a quick, efficient exam that has become a habit. It feels great to be taking control of my breast health.
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