Take an Active Role in your Breast Health with Breast Self-Exams

woman in bra with breast cancer awareness ribbonAs part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the team at UCI Plastic Surgery wants to help bring attention to breast self-exams. Our board-certified plastic surgeons perform breast reconstruction surgery for many breast cancer patients. We understand the emotional and physical tolls that this disease takes on a patient.

Performing breast self-exams regularly may help you detect symptoms of breast cancer. We encourage you to talk to your doctor about the best preventive care plan for you.

What is a Breast Self-Exam?

A breast self-exam is a visual and physical inspection of your breasts.  These exams are performed both in an upright position and lying down.

Why Should I Do a Breast Self-Exam?

The purpose of a breast self-exam is to look for symptoms that could indicate breast cancer. Breast self-exams help you learn what is normal for you, so you are able to identify abnormalities. Breast self-exams are not painful or time consuming and they have no ill effects on your health.

It is important to note that breast self-exams are not a substitute for other medical breast assessments. Regular breast self-exams should be done in addition to breast screenings as recommended by your doctor.

What to Look for in a Breast Self-Exam

As you do your breast self-exam, you are checking the appearance and consistency of your breasts for signs of cancer. The following are findings that you would want to report to your doctor right away:

  • Dimpling, swelling, ridges, or bulges in the skin or tissue
  • Thick tissue (tissue that feels thicker or fuller than the rest of your breast tissue)
  • Skin irritation such as rashes, sores, or scales
  • Nipple discharge
  • Pain
  • Redness or warmth
  • Lump in the underarm area
  • A non-inverted nipple that becomes inverted (pushed in)

How to do a Breast Self-Exam

The visual self-exam is best conducted in front of a mirror. Remove any garments covering your chest.

  • Start with your arms at your sides and take note of the shape, color, and position of your breasts and nipples.
  • Next, raise your arms overhead and repeat the visual inspection.
  • Next, place your palms at your hips. Press against your hips to contract your chest muscles and repeat the visual inspection.

Continue with the physical self-exam while standing or sitting upright.

  • Raise your left arm overhead
  • Use the pads of your first two fingers on your right hand to make small circular motions across the surface of your breast.
  • Use light pressure to check the outer tissue, moderate pressure for middle tissue, and firm pressure for deep tissue examination.
  • Make sure to cover your whole breast and the armpit area.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

The last step is to lay down and conduct the physical self-exam.

  • Place a pillow under your left shoulder and put your left arm behind your head.
  • Use the same circular motion method for checking your breasts as you did while upright.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Contact Us for a Plastic Surgery Consultation

If you have questions about breast reconstruction, performing a breast self-exam after breast augmentation, or how plastic surgery can help you address other concerns you have with your body, please call to schedule a consultation. For our Tustin and Orange locations, call 714-456-3077. For our Costa Mesa location, call 949-999-2411.