How to perform a thorough breast self-exam with Dr Allison DiPasquale and Dr Anne Peled
When it comes to breast cancer, early detection saves lives. One way to be more aware of changes to your breasts is through self-examination, but how can you do this effectively?
According to recent figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), 2.3 million people around the world are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
Fortunately, in most cases this is now picked up at an early stage, often through annual mammograms. This makes it easier to treat and significantly increases survival rates. However, there are many women who are not eligible for these annual screenings.
For these women, self-examination can be pivotal in spotting unusual lumps, shaping or discharge – all of which could be symptoms worth getting checked out by a medical professional.
During a recent visit to Endomag HQ, we asked Dr Allison DiPasquale of Texas Breast Specialists and Dr Anne Peled of Sutter Health to share their top tips and tricks to help you know what to look and feel for.
What to LOOK for
For her first tip, Dr DiPasquale explained the importance of knowing your breasts by sight.
The best way to do this is to stand in front of a mirror before you shower and get to know how the skin and nipples look.
To increase your visibility, raise your arms in the air to make sure there’s no dimpling below the breast fold, and then place your hands on your hips to look at the inside of your armpit.
What to FEEL for
Next, it’s time to get familiar by feel. Start by getting into a comfortable position, whether that’s in the shower (which also helps for convenience) or by lying down with your arm above your head to allow you to feel around the armpit space too.
There are three methods that Dr DiPasquale recommends for the self-examination:
- Nipple Outwards - Start from the nipple and lightly press around the nipple, before making your way out to the edge of the breast. Once here, move up to the armpit and feel across the area.
- The ‘S’ method - snaking your fingers from the top to the bottom of the breast through an s-shaped motion, making sure you’re covering all areas of the breast tissue. Again, finish up in the armpit.
- ‘Spokes on a Wheel’ – this involves working your way from the edge of the breast to the nipple in a straight line, then repeating this motion in a circular action around the breast. It’s worth noting that this method is more difficult to do by yourself as it may require use of both hands.
How often should you check?
It is important to retain consistency in your chosen method, as this will allow you to be more thorough and more easily spot any abnormalities.
If possible, Dr Peled advises checking every day as it will also allow you to regularly note any differences, particularly during the menstrual cycle where there will be other changes to your body.
If you are concerned about any changes you may find, don’t be afraid to ask your local medical professional. Fortunately, most breast lumps are benign, so often it will be nothing to worry about.
We’d like to thank Dr DiPasquale and Dr Peled for providing this helpful advice. If you’d like to find out more about breast self-examination, visit BreastCancer.org.