Functional Medicine & Wellness

How To Perform A Proper Breast Self-Exam

Most women know the importance of regular breast self-exams, but not nearly enough of them are making the commitment to check themselves on a regular basis. In fact, only 20-30% of women report doing monthly breast self-exams, even though statistics show that most breast irregularities are found by women themselves.

At Omnia Health, we wholeheartedly believe in the power of preventive care. And these self-exams play a significant role in maintaining breast health and can aid in early detection of breast cancer. By becoming familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, you are more likely to notice any changes. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a breast self-exam correctly.

Step 1: Choose the Right Time

The best time to perform a breast self-exam is about 3-5 days after your menstrual period ends. At this time, your breasts are least likely to be swollen or tender, which makes it easier to detect any unusual changes. If you no longer have menstrual periods, choose a specific day of the month that’s easy to remember.

Step 2: Visual Inspection

Start by standing in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Look at your breasts in the mirror and check for:

  • Changes in size, shape, or symmetry.
  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin.
  • Changes in the nipple, such as inversion or discharge.
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.

Next, raise your arms over your head and look for the same changes. Looking closely at your breasts on a regular basis will help you become aware of any visible abnormalities.

Step 3: Physical Examination while laying down

Many women prefer to do a breast self-exam when they are laying down on their back. This position spreads the breast tissue evenly over your chest, making it easier to feel all parts of your breasts. Then follow these instructions:

  • Place a pillow under your right shoulder and put your right arm behind your head.
  • Use the pads of your three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps or other changes in your right breast.
  • Move your fingers in small circular motions, covering the entire breast area, including the armpit. 
  • Use varying pressure—light pressure for the tissue just beneath the skin, medium pressure for the middle of the breast, and firm pressure for the deep tissue near the chest wall.
  • Follow a pattern to ensure you cover the whole breast. You can use vertical lines (up and down), radial lines (wedge shapes from the nipple outward), or concentric circles (starting from the nipple and moving outward).
  • Repeat the process on your left breast using your right hand.

Step 4: Physical Examination While Standing or Sitting

There are also women who find it easier to feel changes in their breasts when their skin is wet, so you might prefer to do a breast self-exam in the shower. Follow the same steps outlined above for the lying-down examination and look for:

  • Lumps or thickening in the breast or underarm area.
  • Any unusual discharge from the nipples.
  • Changes in the skin texture, such as puckering or dimpling.
  • Persistent pain in one area of the breast.

What to Do If You Find a Lump

If you find a lump or notice any other unusual changes, don’t panic. Most breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous). However, it’s essential to see your healthcare provider as soon as possible to have the area evaluated. They may recommend additional tests, such as a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy, to determine the cause of the changes.

Performing regular breast self-exams is just one component of practicing proactive healthcare. It’s worth mentioning that breast self-exams are not a substitute for professional screenings and mammograms, which should be part of your regular healthcare routine. 

At Omnia Health, we help our patients determine a personalized course of action and outline a preventive care screening schedule to work towards achieving optimal wellness. Let’s get the conversation started. 




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