How well do you really know your boobs? Currently, statistics show that 1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer at some point during her lifetime and that 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump.
Long story short, the better you know your girls and what’s normal for them, the better you’ll be able to tell if something is off. Remember--ignorance isn’t bliss and early detection means you have a better chance of diagnosing and treating breast cancer successfully.
Performing a monthly breast self-exam (BSE) is the best way to help you to become familiar with how your breasts look and feel, and ultimately detect any abnormalities or changes. If you do find any abnormalities, don’t panic or assume the worst. About 80% of lumps found are not cancerous. But for peace of mind and because you are a responsible BISH who wants the best for her body, head to your doctor for further evaluation.
Here are four ways that you can perform a quick and effective BSE:
1. Think of each breast as a face on a clock. Start at 12 o'clock and move toward 1 o'clock in small circular motions, then 2 o’clock and so on. Keeping your fingers flat and in constant contact with your breast, continue around the entire breast until you reach “12 o'clock” again. When the first circle is complete, move in one inch toward the nipple and complete another circle. Remember to use the flat part of your fingers and not the tips.
2. Check your nipples for discharge by placing your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple. Pull outward toward the end of the nipple and look for any discharge. Repeat on both breasts. Other things you should look out for on your nipples include sudden inversion, scaliness, redness, itching, and swelling.
3. Support the breast with one hand as you use the other hand to press gently into the breast - again using the flat part of your fingers and not the tips. Follow an up-and-down pattern along the breast from bra line to collarbone. What you’re looking for are any lumps, thickening, or hardened knots.
4. Lie down and raise your right arm above your head. When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall, making it easier to feel for any abnormalities. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit area. Repeat on the left breast.
Illustrations by: Rebecca T Lin