Breast self examination is a very important process a woman should undergo every month to pick up any change in size colour or shape of the breast. It is also done to easily detect the presence of a lump, change in the nipple/areola or the presence of any abnormal nipple discharge.
It is best done on the seventh day of the menstrual cycle (7 days after the onset of menstruation). At this time the fullness associated with menstruation would have resolved.
It is important to note that most of the time the two breasts are not of the same shape and size.
The following easy steps can be followed for proper breast examination
Stand in front of a mirror your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips and observe the size, shape and colour of your breast. Also note the nipple and areola.
Raise your hands up and look out for similar observations as stage 1. You can observe the breast both from the side and from the front.
Lie down on a flat surface then take the palmar surface (with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together) of your right hand and examine the left breast in four different quadrants (the breast is divided into 4 places by an imaginary line).
The examination is done in a circular motion in all the quadrants. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back of the breast. You extend your palm to the axillary (armpit) region. The same is done with the left hand on the right breast.
The goal is to look out for any abnormal mass or structure in the breast.
The nipple can then be gently squeezed to rule out any abnormal discharge (if you are not breast feeding).
The breast is examined while standing in the same hand motion movement as in step 3.
WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR
It is important to visit a doctor if you notice any of the following;
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin of the breast.
- A change in nipple position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling of any part of the breast
- Abnormal nipple discharge
- An abnormal lump in the breast.
BENEFITS OF BREAST SELF-EXAMINATION
- It allows for early detection of cancer which increases the survival rate of the person
- It allows for early detection of benign breast condition
- Abnormal nipple discharge can be easily detected when self-examination is done
It is important to note that there are some normal lumps which make up the normal structure of the breast. Regular examination makes it easy to detect any sudden change in the breast structure.