How to self-examine your breasts
Choma, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in South Africa, which shows just how important it is to know how to check if you might have it. The good news is that doing a breast exam is the first step to early detection, and you can do it yourself. The purpose of a breast exam is not only to get to know your breasts Choma but also to make sure that there are no lumps, bumps and other abnormalities that could be a sign of breast cancer. The recommended age to start examining your breasts is when you turn 20 because your chance of getting breast cancer increases as you get older. But just because you’re under 20 it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start learning how to examine your breasts now Choma. No matter when you start, learning how to do this early can save your life. So here’s a step-by-step guide on how to examine your breasts.
Start by looking at your breasts in the mirror. You would need to be topless for this because you are checking your breasts for any changes or abnormalities. Stand with your back and shoulders and your hands on your hips.
Check that your breasts still look the way they usually do in terms of shape, colour and size. Also checked if they are evenly shaped with no unusual bumps or swelling or an unusual colour or marking.
Speak to a healthcare practitioner if you notice unusual lumps, bulging skin, an unusual nipple (this means that your nipple has changed position or looks inverted, like it’s pushed inward instead of sticking out) or anything else that looks strange to you Choma.
Take your arms off your hips and raise them above your head. Just as with step one, check that nothing looks abnormal. You might notice that one of your breasts is slightly smaller than the other. That’s normal Choma. Most women have different sized breasts. So when you’re checking your breasts, check more for things like abnormal dimples, scarring, rash, abnormal nipples (as explained above) and also for any kind of discharge (milky, pus-like or blood).
If you notice any of these, see a healthcare practitioner Choma.
Now you should do your breast exam lying down. It’s good to do it lying down because the breast tissue spreads evenly when you’re lying flat.
So lie flat down. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm under your head. Use your left hand to check your right breast. Using the tips of your fingers, use a circular motion to check your whole breast. You can start from your armpit, using a circular motion to check for any lumps. Do the same over your entire breast area, using a circular motion to check for lumps. Remember to do this gently. When you’re done with your right side, check your left breast by placing the pillow under your left shoulder with your left arm under your head.
Do a breast self-exam while you’re in the bath or shower. This is suggested because a lot of women find it easier to do a breast check when their breasts are wet. So whether you’re standing in the shower, or sitting in the bath, raise your right arm over your head and check your right breast using your left hand, just like you did in step 3 (use circular motions and gently add pressure to check your entire breast and under your arm).
Things to remember:
It’s a good idea to do breast examinations monthly so that you get to know what your breasts look and feel like. Do this examination a few days after your period (since being on your period is more likely to make your breasts swollen and tender).
Keep a journal or diary if you think it will help you remember things about your breast (so that you notice if there are any concerning changes).
Remember, doing a self-exam is only the first step. You should always go for regular check-ups with your healthcare practitioner for a more accurate exam.
Do you have any questions about this article Choma? Remember, can send me a message to talk to me about anything. So if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).
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