A Straightforward Guide to Breast Cancer Self-Exams

October is a month filled with celebrations of pumpkins, funny costumes, and festive fall activities but it also serves as a reminder of something much more serious - it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s a time when people, organizations, and companies come together to bring awareness about the potentially-deadly disease, raise funds for a much needed cure, celebrate survivors, and honor those who have passed.

The biggest key in fighting this disease is awareness and early detection. How can you detect breast cancer early? The best form of detection is through yearly screenings by your doctor - mammograms can detect irregularities and lumps that can’t be seen or felt. But you don’t have to wait for an appointment - a practical, effective way to stay ahead of breast cancer is by performing regular self-breast exams at home. Doing a self-exam just once a month means you’ll be more likely to detect subtle changes and be able to alert your doctor early if you suspect anything unusual.

Wondering where to start? We’ve put together a quick guide to at-home breast exams to help empower you.

Ready to get started? Plan to perform your self-exam either in the shower or while you are comfortably laying down. Then, refer to the chart below for all the deets!

Home Breast Cancer Exam

 

When performing your self-exam, be sure to cover the entire breast area and armpit. Pressure should be light, medium and firm. And be sure to squeeze the nipples to check for discharge and lumps.

What to Look For

  • Any swelling of the breast (all or part)
  • Skin irritation or dimpling (like the peel of an orange)
  • Pain in the nipple or breast
  • Nipples retracting/turning inwards
  • Nipple or breast skin redness, scaliness, or thickening
  • Discharge other than breast milk from the nipple

Laying Down

While you’re laying down, watching TV or before you fall asleep at night, place a pillow under your shoulder (whichever side you’re checking first) and place your hand behind your head. Using the opposite hand, gently move the pads of your fingers around the breast in small circular motions. Repeat the same steps and check the other side.

In the Shower

The shower isn’t just time for singing your favorite songs at the top of your lungs, let’s check on your health too! Using the pads of your fingers, gently move in a circular pattern around your breast from the outside to the center. And remember to check the armpit area, too!

What do you do if you find something?

If you notice something is off, try not to panic, and schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. Call a close friend or family member that you trust who can go with you - no need to process this health-scare alone.


Get Involved

Want to do more? Here are some ways you can get involved in the fight against breast cancer:

  • Start by spreading the love! Share resources and awareness tips - remember, early detection is key! Send this article to 5 women you love.
  • Wear pink clothing or a pink ribbon to show your support during the month of October.
  • Create a fundraiser, join a team or walk/run a race to support fundraising and awareness efforts with Susan G. Komen. Read more here: komen.org

Whether you’re a survivor, recently diagnosed or have been through the struggle with a family member or friend, always know your friends here at Shapermint are here to support you this month, and always.