To do the breast self-examination it is necessary to follow three main steps which include observing in front of the mirror, palpating the breast while standing and repeat the palpation while lying down.
Breast self-examination is not considered one of the preventive exams for cancer, but it can be done once a month, every month, between the 3rd and the 5th day after menstruation, which is when the breasts are more flabby and painless, or on a fixed date for women who no longer have periods. Although the examination does not allow the diagnosis of cancer, it helps to get to know the body better, allowing one to be aware of possible changes that may arise in the breast. See which 11 signs may indicate breast cancer .
All women after 20 years old, with a case of cancer in the family, or over 40 years old, without a case of cancer in the family, must undergo breast self-examination to prevent and diagnose breast cancer early. This test can also be done by men, as they can also suffer from this type of cancer, showing similar symptoms. Learn more about male breast cancer .
Step-by-step instructions for breast self-examination
In order to properly perform the breast self-examination it is important to make the assessment at 3 different times: in front of the mirror, standing and lying down, following the following steps:
1. How to make the observation in front of the mirror
To make the observation in front of the mirror, remove all clothing and observe following the following diagram:
- First, watch with your arms dropped;
- Then, raise your arms and watch your breasts;
- Finally, it is advisable to place your hands on the pelvis, applying pressure to observe if there is any change on the surface of the breast.
During observation it is important to assess the size, shape and color of the breasts, as well as bumps, dips, bumps or roughness. If there are changes that were not present in the previous exam or there are differences between the breasts, it is recommended to consult the gynecologist or a mastologist.
2. How to do a foot palpation
The foot palpation should be done during the bath with a wet body and soaped hands. To do so, you must:
- Lift your left arm, placing your hand behind your head as shown in image 4;
- Carefully palpate the left breast with the right hand using the movements in image 5;
- Repeat these steps for the right breast.
Palpation should be done with the fingers together and stretched in a circular motion across the breast and from top to bottom. After palpation of the breast, you should also press the nipples gently to see if any fluid is flowing out.
3. How to do the palpation lying down
To do the lying palpation you must:
- Lie down and place your left arm on the back of the neck, as shown in image 4;
- Place a pillow or towel under your left shoulder to be more comfortable;
- Palpate the left breast with the right hand, as shown in image 5.
These steps must be repeated on the right breast to finish evaluating both breasts. If it is possible to feel changes that were not present in the previous exam, it is recommended to consult the gynecologist to make diagnostic exams and identify the problem.
What are the warning signs
Breast self-examination is an excellent way to know the anatomy of the breasts, helping to quickly identify changes that may indicate the development of cancer. However, it can also be a method that causes a lot of anxiety, especially when a change is found.
Thus, it is important to know that the presence of small lumps in the breast is relatively common, especially in women, and does not indicate that a cancer is developing. However, if this lump grows over time or if it causes other symptoms, it can indicate malignancy and, therefore, should be investigated by a doctor. Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Changes in breast skin;
- Enlargement of one breast;
- Redness or changes in breast color.
While in women, mammography is the best way to identify a possible malignant change, in men, the best exam is palpation. However, if the man identifies any changes, he should go to the doctor so that he can also touch and ask for other tests, if necessary.