When is the best time to perform a self-examination?
You should perform a self-examination once a month, four days after your period. Your breasts are less dense and easier to examine during that time.
Your breasts are subjected to significant influences (hormonal fluctuations, weight changes, etc.), and their consistency can vary a great deal from one cycle to the next or even from one day in the cycle to the next. Do not be alarmed by these changes in consistency, simply check at another time during the cycle to be sure the change is not part of a natural fluctuation. If the changes in your breasts persist, you should have them checked by your physician.
After menopause, there is no more hormonal influence, so any changes in breast tissue consistency become more significant.
What should I look for?
When examining your breasts you should look for any change in the size or shape of the breast. Look for any asymmetry between the breasts or any retraction of the nipple. Also look for any discharge from the nipple. Feel in your armpit for any small lumps or thickened areas.
If you notice any change that concerns you, be sure to check with your physician. Don’t delay.
Self-examination: a suggested method
Lying on your back, relaxed, feel your right breast with the left hand held flat. Roll it under your palm, quarter by quarter. The examination must start at the surface, and then go deeper. Make small circular movements over the entire surface. Then change hands and breasts.
With the fingers curved, look for any small lumps (lymph nodes) in the hollow of the underarms.
Standing in front of a mirror with your arms beside your body, examine the symmetry of your chest. The nipples should be in the same horizontal line without red dimples or retraction.
Squeeze your nipples between your thumb and forefinger. They should remain supple under the fingers. Should you find the slightest anomaly (a lump, redness, crust, eczema, drainage of a light liquid), make an appointment with your doctor immediately.
Observe the contour of your breasts: when you raise your arms, they should not show any deformity. Check that the skin is normal and has not undergone any recent change.
Still in front of the mirror, turn to the side and lean over to check that there are no abnormal changes in the shape of the breast.
Certain factors increase the risk of breast cancer:
- Early onset of menstruation.
- Having your first child after the age of 30.
- A late menopause.
- A family history: if your mother, sister, an aunt, or a grandmother had/has breast cancer.
Although rare, men can also have breast cancer. If there is a history of male breast cancer in your family, tell your doctor.
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