Breast self-examination is a very simple procedure which women can perform in the confines of the bedrooms or bathrooms. This test is a very important self diagnostic tool to determine the risks of breast cancer. Nowadays, doctors are emphasizing on the point that each woman should perform breast self-examinations regularly so that they can find out if there are any abnormalities in their breasts. . . One important factor that is in favor of breast self-examination is that no one will know her breasts as accurately as the woman herself.
Doctors are encouraging women to become more familiarized with their own breasts so that they can immediately find out any abnormalities. Women should know the contours, the feel, the texture and the color of their breasts perfectly. This is an important part of the breast self-examination technique. . .
How to Self-Examine the Breasts. . The first part of self-examination of the breasts is pure observation. The woman must remove her upper body garment and stand in front of a mirror. Then she should place her hands by her sides. The next step is observation of the breasts.
For this, the woman must first observe her breasts in their frontal positions, then turn to the left and right sides and observe the breasts from those sides in the mirror. This observation must be repeated with the hands on the hips and finally with the hands placed over the head. Any abnormality in the breast must be noted. . . The next stage of breast self-examination is actually touching the breast to find out any abnormalities.
There are two methods to carry out this part of the self-examination. . .
(i) Circular Sweep Method . . For this method, the left hand is to be placed behind the head and the right hand is used to touch different parts of the breasts. Women who are more comfortable with the right hand behind the head and the left hand touching the breasts may do so.
The free hand must be kept on the top of the breast region, just where the bulge begins. Then the hand is to be moved gradually in a clockwise manner, feeling the breast carefully at each point for lumps or any other kind of deformities. When one circle is completed, the hand must be taken a little inside the breast and the circular sweep must be done again. In this way, the circle must be progressively decreased until the hand reaches the nipple area. At every point gentle but steady pressure must be applied to check that there are no anomalies in the breasts. Finally, when the hand reached the nipple tissue, the fingers must be used to squeeze the nipple in both vertical and horizontal positions to check if there is any secretion.
. . (ii) Pie Chart Method .
. Here too, the woman self-examining her breasts needs to keep one hand behind her head and examine the breasts with the other hand. The hand is to be placed on the top region of the breast and then swept downwards, towards the protuberance of the nipple. Along the way, the fingers must be used to check if there are any lumps in the breast. When the hand reaches the nipple after one sweep, then it must be taken to the top again, placed a little to the left and swept downwards again.
In this manner, the whole breast must be covered, even from the lower region, checking every point. If a firmer touch is required, then the fingers can be moved in a walking type of motion over the breast. Again, this examination must be ended with a pinching of the nipples in both vertical and horizontal directions to check for any abnormal secretion. . . Age to Begin Breast Self-Examination .
. Hormonal changes begin occurring from the onset of puberty, i.e. when the girl reaches twelve years of age in normal circumstances. When the girl is in her post-puberty, which is roughly twenty years, the estrogen amounts have generally built up to their maturity levels. This is when breast self-examination must begin.
. . The breast self-examination must be carried out as a routine procedure. In fact every woman who has crossed the age of twenty years must carry out the examination once a month while in the shower.
When the woman has crossed the age of forty years, then only breast self-examination is not enough. At that time, the woman must have a mammogram taken at least once a year. . . The Best Time to Self-Examine the Breasts .
. Breasts are prone to undergo several changes within the menstrual cycle of the woman. At some times during the cycle, the breasts are soft; while at some other times, they may be firm. This happens generally in the later days of the menstrual cycle. When the breasts are firm, it is more difficult to check them for any lumpy growths.
Therefore, the ideal time for carrying out breast self-examination would be one week after the menstrual flow has occurred. .
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