As 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
- 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.