Carolinas HealthCare System
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Best Health for Breast Health - Learn the Basics of Breast Self-Exams

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Most women – and men! – recognize and appreciate the wash of pink across the community during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Those little ribbon twists are more than cute; they’re a good reminder to schedule your mammogram and educate yourself on the proper way to perform a breast self-exam.

“It’s important women know how their breast tissue feels normally,” says Joel Yancey, MD, from Charlotte OB/GYN-Huntersville, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. “So that if you find a lump or something that doesn’t seem right, you can immediately schedule an appointment with your doctor.”

The best time to perform a breast self-exam is about three to five days after your period starts. Your breasts are not as tender or lumpy during this time of month. Dr. Yancey advises that if you have gone through menopause, do your exam on the same day every month. If you make it a habit, you’ll become more comfortable doing a breast self-exam.

“Most women have some lumps, and every woman’s breasts are different,” says Dr. Yancey. “Become familiar with your breast tissue and the shape of your breasts so that you will know if something looks or feels different.”

Here’s How to Do It
  1. First, lie on your back. It’s easier to examine all breast tissue if you are lying down.
  2. Place your right hand behind your head. With the middle fingers of your left hand, gently yet firmly press down using small motions to examine the entire right breast.
  3. Next, sit or stand. Feel your armpit, because breast tissue goes into that area.
  4. Gently squeeze the nipple, checking for discharge. Repeat the process on the left breast.
  5. Next, stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your side.
  6. Look at your breasts directly and in the mirror. Look for changes in skin texture, such as dimpling, puckering, indentations or skin that looks like an orange peel.
  7. Also note the shape and contour of each breast.
  8. Check to see if the nipple turns inward.
  9. Do the same with your arms raised above your head.

If you find anything new or different, call your healthcare provider right away to schedule an appointment.

Partner With Your Doctor for Good Health

The primary care doctors at Carolinas HealthCare System can help you get (and stay) on the path to wellness.

Call 844-881-2180 or complete an online request form to find a doctor near you.