October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam

I am very grateful to the Breast Cancer.org site for displaying these five steps on how to go about completing a self-examination on your own breasts.pink

A self-examination is something that should be done on a very regular basis, say once a month to be able to identify any changes as described below.   There has been a lot of discussion about women you are under 50 and breast cancer.

It is true that the average age of being diagnosed with Breast Cancer is around 60, but there are many women who are under 50 and I know as I am one of hundreds that I know that fit into the under 50 category. There are also many women over 60 that are diagnosed as well.  In Australia alone it is 40 women per day

You should never think that it will never happen to you because 1 in 8 women are told that they have it.

I saw an article the other day that said if you get a lump and you are under 50 then don’t panic as it is probably nothing and if it persists then see your doctor.  Well just quietly, it does not matter what age you are. Cancer does not discriminate and does not pay attention to the age barrier.  I personally have this advice for all you ladies out there.

  • Breast Cancer is not something we can immunize against (yet – you never do know what is around the corner)
  • Self examination is the first and best way to be aware of your body as lumps and changes can indeed be hormonal and come and go each month. If you check at the same time each month you will indeed get to know if there is something different going on
  • If you are within the breast screening criteria then please, take advantage of it and get your mammograms done regularly. They are totally amazing now with the digital pictures
  • I totally agree with the article, don’t panic. But that does not mean to ignore it either. Be alert and aware. You see if you find a lump and it has not been there before and is not normal or like anything that you have previously noticed within your breasts – do not wait. Get it checked out
  • It is a fact that 9 out of 10 lumps in a breast are NOT breast cancer. But if yours turns out to be 1 of the 10 then early detection and treatment is your best weapon against it.
  • Age is no protection – a lump is a lump is a lump – get it checked out
  • Don’t ignore it because you are afraid. It is normal to be afraid of the “what if” syndrome. But I am here to tell you that you need to be brave and get it sorted.
  • It is better to be told it is nothing than guess that it is nothing
  • If you are not happy with the test results, do not hesitate to get a second opinion to ensure you are comfortable with the results
  • If you know someone who has found a lump but is afraid to see their doctor about it. Help them out, encourage them to get it checked out and remember that even though it may be Breast Cancer, the chances are that it may not.

I am 47 and have been diagnosed with Secondary Breast Cancer almost 8 years after originally being diagnosed with Early Breast Cancer. This is indeed true but I am also totally sure that I am here today because I had been checking my breasts on a monthly basis since 21 and when the lump appeared when I was 38 I was able to give it the best possible chance to be cured. I am just one of the ladies who for some reason after many years without cancer, it returns.  I will never know why I got it in the first place and have even less of an idea now as to why it has returned but I can use this as a platform to others to be pro-active in checking.  You see, I may be here speaking to you from the side of the fence with ABC but there are indeed thousands and thousands of women who have self-examination and mammograms to thank today for still being here and cancer free.

The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam


Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.Here’s what you should look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
Breast Self-Exam - Step 1Breast Self-Exam — Step 1
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Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes. Breast Self-Exam - Steps 2 and 3Breast Self-Exam — Steps 2 and 3
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Step 3: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage. Breast Self-Exam - Step 4Breast Self-Exam — Step 4
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Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4. Breast Self-Exam - Step 5Breast Self-Exam — Step 5
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