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How to Conduct a Breast/Chest Self-Exam

Apicha Community Health Center Oct 06, 2020  

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It's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is most commonly associated with women, with one in eight women developing invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. And screening for cancer is key when it comes to protecting your health. In this blog, we're going to explain how to conduct a breast self-exam on yourself. It's also important to note that breast cancer doesn't affect just women, but nonbinary and trans folks, too. Information for this blog has been derived from the National Breast Cancer Foundation. 

What is a breast self-exam?

A breast self-exam means you'll be checking your own breast and chest area for cancer. Performing a routine exam on yourself can help you manage your health and detect any abnormal tissue. It is recommended that all women and individuals with breast tissue conduct an exam at least once a month.  

How to conduct a breast/chest self-exam

1. In the shower. 

Use your three middle fingers and place them flat on your chest (don't use the tips of your fingers). Check the entire breast/chest and armpit area by pressing down with your fingers. Use light, medium, and pressure. Repeat on the other breast/chest side. Keep a feel out for any lump, thickening, hard knot, or any other breast/chest changes. 

2. In the mirror. 

Stand in front of a mirror in which you can see your breast/chest area. Inspect your breast/chest area with your arms down. Then do so with your arms raised. Look for any changes in shape, swelling, or texture of the skin. Look for any change in the nipples as well. 

Next, place your hands on your hips and press firmly down to flex your chest muscles. While flexed, look for any changes in shape, swelling, or texture of the skin. Keep in mind that left and right breasts/chest sides may naturally look different won't match -- that's normal. You're looking for any abnormal changes to your own breast/chest area.

3. Lying down.

Conducting an exam while lying down allows the breast/chest tissue to spread out evenly along your chest wall (thanks, gravity).  Insert a pillow under your right shoulder, and place your right arm behind your head. Use your left hand to feel around your right breast/chest. Be sure to cover the entire breast/chest and armpit area using light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple to check for discharge, lumps, or pain. Repeat with your left breast/chest side. 

Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast/chest side gently covering the entire breast area and armpit.

What if I find a lump?

If you find a lump or any kind of other irregularity in your breast/chest tissue, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. And, try not to panic -- 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.

What about mammograms?

Mammograms are an effective way of detecting tumors before they are visible or can be felt. However, medical providers recommend conducting monthly breast/chest self-exams on your own. Mammograms are typically only conducted for women ages 40 and up, or if your family has a history of breast cancer. If you have questions or concerns about breast cancer, reach out to your doctor today. 

How Apicha CHC can help

At Apicha CHC, our medical providers are able to answer your questions about breast cancer and overall breast/chest tissue health. If you're a patient at Apicha CHC, reach out to your primary care doctor to discuss breast cancer more. Apicha CHC also provides referrals for mammograms. If you're interested in becoming a patient at Apicha CHC, click the image below. 


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