Nichole's Health Scare - How to Properly do a Breast Self Exam

Nichole had a breast cancer scar earlier this week after her doctor found several lumps on both of her breasts.

From Nichole:

At age 30 I didn't think I would be facing the possibility of Breast Cancer. I'm healthy, I do regular checks, at least I thought I was, I know my family history dictates that Breast Cancer is prevalent in my family. But, I'm only 30.

I don't have breast cancer. What I have is Fibrocystic Breasts. Basically they are lumpy, dense and can be painful at times. But what I really learned... I wasn't doing my self exams properly.

I was only checking while in the shower. My doctor found the lumps while I was lying down. What I learned is there are THREE positions you should be for a proper self exam. 

I've heard a lot of woman avoid getting their mammograms done b/c they are "pianful" -- ladies, it lasts mere seconds. A few seconds of "pain" could SAVE your life. 

HOW SHOULD A BREAST SELF-EXAM BE PERFORMED?

1) IN THE SHOWER 

Using the pads of your fingers, move around your entire breast in a circular pattern moving from the outside to the center, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2) IN FRONT OF A MIRROR 

Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.

Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women's breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

3) LYING DOWN

When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. 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 gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.

Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.


Breast self-examination (BSE)

Normal:

It is important to know what your breasts normally look like and feel like so you can identify any changes as soon as possible. One breast is usually slightly larger than the other. You may find a ridge of firm tissue in the lower curve of the breast below the nipple. This is normal. You may also notice that your breasts change throughout your menstrual cycle, and you may notice increased swelling and tenderness before your period starts.

Both breasts have a similar consistency and there are no new lumps since your last self-examination. You may have breasts that feel lumpy throughout. If both breasts feel this way, this is normal for you.

You may be able to express a clear or milky discharge from your nipple. This may be due to nursing, breast stimulation, hormones, or some other normal cause.

If you have small breasts, you may feel your rib as a firm mass through your breast tissue. If you follow the curve of firm tissue, you will be able to tell it's your rib and not a mass.

Abnormal:

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Abnormal changes are those that are unusual for you. The color or feel of your breast or nipple may change. This can include wrinkling, dimpling, thickening, or puckering or an area that feels thickened.

A nipple which previously pointed out now points in (inverted). A red, scaly rash or sore may be found on the nipple.Nipple discharge is green or bloody.

A new lump can be felt in breast tissue. Most lumps are pea-sized. If you find a lump, don'tpanic; 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. A lump is most often caused by a cyst, a fibroadenoma, or generalized breast lumpiness(fibrocystic breast changes), none of which are cancerous.



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