Most women are familiar with breast checks—general physicians and gynecologists teach the importance of these checks for early signs of breast cancer. But did you know that women are not the only ones who need to perform regular breast self-exams? Men have breast tissue along their pectorals as well, and face some of the same risk factors for breast cancer. Since this month is National Cancer Prevention Month, we here at Texarkana Emergency Center want to encourage everyone, no matter your gender, to perform thorough self-check exams of your breast tissue.
What do we mean by “thorough” self-exam? A thorough self-exam has 5 steps in it, as detailed by breastcancer.org for optimal breast health. Follow along to learn how you can check yourself for any risks of breast cancer.
Check out your chest in the mirror. Do you notice anything abnormal? No one knows your body better than you do, so hold your shoulders back and take a quick visual check. Look for signs of:
If your nipple or areola looks like it is a different color or is in a different position than normal, that could be a subtle sign of breast tissue distress. You will want to handle your breast tissue with care if you notice any of these signs and consult with a physician as soon as you can.
After your visual check, raise up your arms and look for the same signs. Do you see any swelling, redness, or distortion yet? It can be important to look at your chest from a variety of angles, since breast tissue actually reaches the under-arm area as well—a place we rarely give much thought unless we are bathing of putting on deodorant. Turn side-to-side and give your chest a good once over with your arms up to make sure no signs of poor health are hiding from you.
Now you will want to check for any signs of fluid coming from your nipples. With your arms still up in the mirror, look and see if there are any signs of discharge. This could be a watery fluid, milky fluid, yellow fluid, puss, or blood—all of them are signs that something is not right with your breasts. If you feel tenderness near your nipple and are worried about any discharge, press the area a bit and see if fluid comes out. Be careful and consult a physician immediately if you find any signs of distressed breast tissue.
Now that you’ve have your arms in the air for a while, it is time to give them a rest. Lay down on your back and keep your left arm tucked behind your head. With your right hand, start to feel your left breast or the left side of your pectorals. Move your fingertips in circular pressing motions over your whole breast. You’ll want to touch everywhere, from top to bottom and side to side. Keep a firm, smooth touch and try to keep your fingers together so that you are feeling with a wide, flat grasp.
It is recommend that you start at the nipple, feeling in a spiral rotation around the areola, then slowly moving outward. Go all the way to the underside of your breast area using medium pressure the further you get from your nipple. While still laying down, you will want to use a firmer pressure to feel along your armpit, where you breast connects to your waist and back. There is still breast tissue here and should also be checked.
When your left breast is checked, switch arms and move to the right! Make sure you note any areas that are sore or particularly tender. If you feel any lumps in your breast tissue, seek immediate consultation with a physician.
Now, stand back up and lift your left arm. It is time to repeat the previous step, feeling and checking your breast tissue with your right hand. While it can seem a bit tedious to perform the same circular pattern twice, it is very important to feel all areas of your chest. It is easier to feel different areas of your pectorals and breast tissue when you are reclining or standing, so to be thorough you want to check both.
A lot of people say that this final step of the exam is easier to perform when their skin is wet, so you can complete this while in the shower. While you’re lathering up, take some extra time to perform a self-check for any discomfort or signs of breast cancer.
In the event that you find any lumps or swelling, please seek immediate medical consultation. Breast Cancer is not something to take lightly. We here at Texarkana Emergency Center always advise that you get checked and be aware of the signs of breast cancer.
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