BREAST HEALTH IS THE BEST HEALTH: HOW TO GIVE YOURSELF A BREAST EXAM

Dana (@danathehardway) is the lead copywriter for Lovers. She is passionate about writing, allyship, sex-positivity, and telling good jokes.

In October, we wear pink. For breast cancer awareness, of course (but a good Mean Girls reference is so fetch, right?). Keeping your breasts in top form doesn’t just include wearing great lingerie from Lovers, it’s also important to know your body and take care of your health. What are the best ways to care for your breasts? We’ve laid it all bare right here!

QUICK LINKS:

  1. How to Perform a Breast Exam
  2. The Common Characteristics of Healthy Breasts
  3. 4 Changes to Look For During a Breast Exam
  4. How to Support Breast Cancer Research

Who: Technically, everyone with breasts. That includes cis men. We all have breast tissue and we are all susceptible to breast cancer. However, breast cancer rates are much higher in women, so this article is geared towards them.

What: Perform regular self exams to ensure you know the regular look and feel of your breasts; early detection of changes in your breasts that can signify infection or other concerns. Also be sure to have a regular yearly exam from a healthcare provider.

Where: Your home, your doctors office.

When: Every month. If you’re still menstruating, you should aim to do your monthly exam 2-3 days after your period ends. See your healthcare provider once a year and be sure to ask that they include a breast exam. Your doctor will help you assess at what age you should begin having mammograms. 

Why: Early detection increases the chances of survival if an issue does turn out to be cancer. Plus, boobs are great and we want you to be happy and healthy!

A great way to keep your ta-tas in fine form is to feel yourself up regularly. It’s true! While breast self-exams haven’t been shown to be effective in detecting cancer (that’s one thing you just can’t do at home), knowing and regularly examining your body can help you know sooner if something seems off so you can ask a healthcare professional. Most breast changes have benign (non-dangerous) causes, but better to be safe than sorry.


How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

  • Stand in front of a mirror if you can, this will help you see your breasts from multiple angles. Using both your eyes and hands will help you learn both the look and feel of your breasts.
  • Raise your arm over your head and use your opposite hand to examine your breast. Be sure to explore your armpit as well, as your lymph nodes located there are important too.
  • Starting at your nipple, use your fingertips to feel gently but firmly in circles, moving slowly outward until you have felt your entire breast and armpit. Use massage oil or shower gel to add comfort if need be.
  • Continue feeling your breast and surrounding area in an up-and-down pattern.
  • Switch sides and complete the same actions your other breast.

Characteristics of Your Breasts

  • Consistency: Many people have cystic breasts, which can feel lumpy all the time or just around their period. Cysts (which are not dangerous and dissolve on their own) can be exaggerated by various types of foods as well. For folks with breasts like this, it can be even more important to be familiar with what the normal consistency of your breasts is.
  • Moles & Birthmarks: Size, shape, and texture of your moles and birthmarks should be given additional attention during self-exams.
  • Nipple Shape & Color: Your nipples may vary in shape and color compared to other individuals. 
  • Lumps and Dips: Many people have subtle lumps and dips in their breasts that are no cause for concern. 

4 Changes to Breast Tissue You Should Be Mindful Of

  • New lumps or dips you’ve never felt before
  • Nipple discharge (not breastmilk) or changes to the shape and/or texture of your breasts
  • One breast looking uncharacteristically different than the other (only you can determine this since all breasts are unique and many people have breasts that don’t match up exactly)
  • Changes in skin color or texture

NOTE: Self-exams are not a substitute for regular checkups with your doctor. If you feel or see any changes, be sure to address them with your doctor. Early detection is extremely helpful when treating cancer.

Along with monthly self-exams, be sure to schedule a yearly checkup with your healthcare provider (usually your gynecologist) and be sure they conduct a breast exam as well. Around the age of 40, most women also need to start having a scan called a mammogram that shows doctors the makeup of breast tissue. Your doctor will help you to decide when is the right time for you.

How to Support Breast Cancer Research

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, to help continue the research for a cure for breast cancer, you can donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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Further Readings:

Breast Cancer Patients Using Cannabis: Philadelphia Inquirer
Should Black Women Receive Early Breast Cancer Screenings?: Stat News
How a Tattoo Artists Heals with Breast Cancer Survivors: Tristate Homepage

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