Like so many topics in health care, there’s controversy on how helpful breast self-exams are in finding cancers. Regardless, it’s great to know how your breasts normally look and feel so you’ll be able to tell if something changes. Once you’re in your twenties, you may want to begin doing a self-breast exam every month at about the same time, 3-5 days after your menstrual period ends.
This routine will help you get to know how your breasts feel normally. You will then be able to notice if there are any changes, including any new or different lumps. Remember, some lumps are normal, but if you’re worried at any time, talk to your health care provider.
Another great time to do an exam is the day you see your HCP for a check-up, and he or she has said that your breasts are healthy. Then you’ll know that what you feel on that day is normal and what you should expect to feel each time you do a self-exam. Here’s how to do a 3-part breast self-exam that takes only a few minutes.
1. Lying down:
- First, place a pillow under your right shoulder.
- Next, put your right hand under your head.
- Check your entire right breast area with the pads of the fingers of your left hand.
- Use small circles to feel all around your breast, and then feel up-and-down.
- You should feel the area from your collarbone down and in to your chest bone and around the side to underneath your armpit.
- Use light, medium, and firm pressure over each area of your breast.
- You should be able to feel deep down close to your ribs, and closer to the surface of your breast.
- Gently squeeze the nipple to check for any discharge.
- Switch arms and repeat these steps on your left breast.
2. In front of a mirror:
- Look in the mirror (without wearing your bra) then check for any changes in the shape or the appearance of your breasts.
- Note any skin or nipple changes such as dimpling, rashes, bruising, bumps, redness or nipple discharge.
- Look at your breasts in four steps: arms at sides, arms overhead, hands on hips pressing firmly to flex chest muscles, and bending forward.
3. In the shower:
- With soapy hands and fingers flat, raise your right arm.
- Check your right breast.
- Use the same small circles and up-and-down pattern described above in the “Lying Down” position.
- Switch arms and repeat on your left breast.
Your health care provider will likely do a breast exam once a year. While you may find this a little embarrassing, a breast exam is an important way for your HCP to learn what’s normal for your breasts and to look for anything that isn’t normal.
Is it normal to have lumpy breasts
Normal breasts can be smooth or lumpy. Most lumps are due to normal changes in breast tissue that occur during development. Your breasts may also feel different or lumpy around the time of your period. If you do notice that a new lump appears in your breast and does not disappear after your period, you should make an appointment with your health care provider.