Steps to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

By Lindsey Rodrian

Camille Abeldt, Breast Health Nurse Navigator, RN, VSN, with Sutter Health Medical Foundation sat down with San Joaquin Magazine to talk prevention in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Monthly breast self-examinations should begin as soon as you develop breasts. “Why?” Camille asks, “Because cancer can come at any age, and women should know their breasts intimately. Know how they feel, so that you can quickly catch any amoralities.”

If you notice something that feels like a little, hard pebble or pea, contact your doctor immediately. “If breast cancer is caught early on, survival rates skyrocket. Today, we can treat breast cancer and there’s no reason women need to die from this disease,” Camille says. “A lot of women don’t even need chemotherapy because it’s caught so early and a lumpectomy is performed.”

Step 1: Stand in front of a large mirror and stretch your arms out to the side. Look at your breasts and how they differ in size and shape. Check for any discrepancies in symmetry. Are your breasts different shapes or colors? Is the skin dimpling? Raise your arms above your head and repeat the process.

Step 2: While standing, place your left arm above your head and cradle the back of your head with your left palm. With your right hand, knead your left breast in a circular motion starting at the nipple until you have covered the entire area. Repeat steps with right hand and right breast. Repeat steps lying down.

Step 3: Examine your skin to check for dimpling or puckering, and changes in the texture or thickness. If you notice any skin changes that resemble an orange peel, Camille urges you to call your doctor right away, as this can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer.

Step 4: Repeat steps monthly, and really get to know your breasts! Make self-exams a habit, and conduct them conveniently after you shower and are standing in front of the mirror. How do they usually feel and look? Anything out of the ordinary constitutes an appointment with your doctor, and of course, annual mammograms after 40 (or 30 if breast cancer runs in your family) are a must.

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