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One of the most important roles a woman can play in her breast health is to perform regular, monthly self breast examinations. It is especially vital after the age of 40, self breast examinations can often be the first alert to any possible abnormality. Since a woman’s breasts are constantly changing, examining them once a month should be routine.
The animation displayed here and the following instructions will guide you through these simple steps, which can be easily performed and incorporated into your daily activities.
Step 1: Look
Stand in front of a mirror in good light. Place your hands firmly on your hips and visually inspect your breasts for changes in shape, size or skin texture. Next, raise your hands above your head and inspect again. Be sure to check your nipples for any unusual discharge.
Step 2: Feel
Using one of the following 3 patterns*, use your hand & fingers to feel for any abnormal lump or texture within each breast. Raise one arm and place your hand behind your head. Using your other hand, keep your fingers flat and together, and gently move them across each breast without pressing too firmly. This can be done during a shower, when the skin is wet, allowing your fingers to glide smoothly.
Pattern 1: Circle
Beginning at the top of your breast, slowly move your fingers in a large circle around the outside of your breast. As you return to the top of your breast, continue the motion, spiraling slowly toward the center with each circle. Continue the circles until you have examined the entire breast, including the nipple. Repeat for the other breast.
Pattern 2: Up & Down
Starting at your underarm, slowly move your fingers straight down until they are below your breast. Move your fingers closer toward the center of your chest and then continue the motion straight up until they are above your breast. Continue this motion all the way across your breast before repeating the pattern on your other breast.
Pattern 3: Wedge
With your fingers placed at the outside edge of your breast, slowly move toward the center of your nipple. Work your way around your entire breast, examining one wedge-shaped section at a time. Once finished, repeat for your other breast.
The “feel” examination, utilizing pattern 1, 2 or 3 can also be performed while lying down also.
*Your physician may recommend using one pattern over another. The American Cancer Society recommends the Up & Down Pattern.