While October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, being aware of our own breast health deserves year-round attention. In an interview with POPSUGAR, Black Women’s Health Imperative President and CEO, Linda Goler Blount, MPH, said that from the time a person with breasts begins puberty, that they should start self examining their breasts and lymph nodes. She also recommends that anyone over the age of 35 should begin their annual 3D mammogram in order to detect breast cancer as early as possible.
In the video above, registered nurse Carla Garcia-Molina, MSN, RN of Moffitt Cancer Center, located in Tampa takes you through a full breast cancer self examination. Make sure to do these self exams once a month so that you get familiar with how your body looks and feels. Being familiar with your body allows for you to notice any changes that may occur over time and you can discuss those changes with your doctor.
How to Do a Self Breast Exam? Visual Version
- Stand in front of a mirror with your torso completely uncovered so you can look for abnormalities on the breasts
- Lift the arms up over your head
- Next, place hands on hips and turn from side-to-side
- Keeping the hands on the hips learn forward
- Then stand up straight
While going through these motions Garcia-Molina explains that it is important to look for nipple retraction, bulges, or dimpling on the breast as these can be signs of breast cancer.
How to Do a Self Breast Exam? Tactile Version
There are two parts to this portion of the exam that Garcia-Molina guides you through. The first is a standing exam:
- With the index, middle, and ring finger together, begin by making circular motions over the lymph nodes along the neck, upper chest, back of the arm, and axillary area.
- Then feel over the entire breast using light and firm pressure so that you can feel for masses that may be closer to the surface of the skin and deeper in the breast tissue. Note: You can move in any direction you’d like so long as you cover the full surface area of the breast.
- Tip: Take a skin-safe marker to mark where you feel any abnormalities then take a picture of the marks to bring with you to your appointment with a doctor.
The second part is done lying down:
- Lay down with the right hand behind the head, elbow pointing over the head
- With the index, middle, and ring finger together, begin by making circular motions over the lymph nodes along the back of the arm, axillary area, and over the entire breast
- Repeat on the opposite side