MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) — Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is vitally important.
While mammograms can help a woman detect cancer before they can feel a lump, breast self-exams help women to be familiar with how the breasts look and feel so you they alert their healthcare professional if there are any changes.
A breast self-exam is a screening technique you can do at home to check for breast lumps. A breast self-exam can help screen for:
- other abnormalities in the breasts
Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Bonnie Kunz felt a lump on one of her breasts in 2013. She was 38 years old.
“I found it myself when I was putting on lotion. I didn’t want to believe what I was feeling.”
Breast self-exams help you familiarize yourself with the shape, size, and texture of your breasts. This is important because it can help you determine if what you are feeling is normal or abnormal. Any time you feel an abnormality in your breast, tell your doctor.
How to Prepare for a Breast Self-Exam
The best time to do a breast self-exam is a few days after your monthly menstrual cycle ends. Hormonal changes can affect the size and feel of your breasts, so it is best to perform the exam when your breasts are in their normal state.
Women who do not menstruate should choose a certain day to perform the exam, such as the first of each month. You should also keep a journal of your self-exams. This will help you track and record any changes you have noticed in your breasts.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
Start by standing topless in front of a mirror with your hands at your sides. Visually inspect your breasts for the following:
- changes in size, shape, or symmetry
- inverted nipples
- asymmetrical ridges at the bottom
- Check for these signs with your hands at your sides. Then, with your arms over your head, and again when lifting one breast at a time.
- Using the pads of your fingers, not the tips, inspect your breasts while lying down and again in the shower. The water and soap in the shower will allow your fingers to glide easily over your skin.
- Using varying pressure and taking your time, massage your fingers over your breasts in a spiral pattern starting at the nipple. Make your way up to the top of your breast near the collarbone, to the center by your breastbone, and to the sides near your armpits. Do this by putting one arm over your head while massaging your breast with the other hand.
- Lastly, gently squeeze your nipples to check for discharge.
If it wasn’t for Trooper Kunz own discovery and a mammogram, she says she wouldn’t be here today.