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Self Breast Exam
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
A CHANGE IN BREAST SIZE - Some women's breasts differ slightly in size, so don't be concerned if your breasts are not exactly the same. Know what is "normal" for you.
A CHANGE IN THE CONTOUR OF YOUR BREAST - Breast cancer can cause the natural shape of the breast to become distorted and when the cancer grows it can cause the skin to dimple. Sometimes it can cause a "bulging" of the skin.
A CHANGE IN THE SKIN'S TEXTURE - Sometimes a reddish rash, a dandruff-like scaling, or swelling that can look like an orange peel can be an indication of cancer. Dilated superficial blood vessels should also be reported to your doctor.
A CHANGE IN THE NIPPLE - A cancer may cause the nipple to point in another direction different from the other nipple. Be aware of nipples that pull inward, or ones that develop a non-healing sore or ulcer, or a discharge. If you find something that is different than before, and you are uncomfortable or worried about it, have a physician check it out. If you are still uncomfortable with what you've been told (positive or negative), get a second opinion.
Using the flats of your three middle fingers, keeping the fingers straight.
Making three circles (about the size of a dime) applying three pressures.
First circle, light pressure, second circle medium pressure, third circle - deep pressure to as close to the chest wall as possible. You may be able to feel your ribs with this last pressure.
LYING ON YOUR BACK: The Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition advocates breast self exam in a lying down position. A smaller lump can be detected much sooner than when found in the shower.
LAYING FLAT: Your breasts will fall to the side making it difficult to examine. For the breast tissue to spread evenly, turn onto your side with knees bent. Then have your shoulder back down with your hand on your forehead. A pillow on your lower back makes it more comfortable and gives support.
STRIP METHOD: Using the three circles of pressure, begin at the top of the armpit (outer area) and move up and down the area to be examined in parallel strips. Try not to miss any of this area. When you reach the bottom area, move one finger width over to start up on the next strip. Note: Make sure you cover the entire area from the collarbone to the bra line.
When you have reached the nipple, roll back onto your back and place your arm on a right angle to your body. Continue examining until you reached the center of your chest. (See Figure 6 - "A") Finally, do two or three horizontal strips along the upper boundary of your breast tissue along the collar bone where most lymph glands are found. (See Figure 6 - "B")