Breast self exam is an easy way to detect tumors in their earliest stages. The tumor may not be malignant, in other words cancerous. It could be benign and hence no treatment may be necessary. It is also possible for the lumps to be something other than tumor. The lumps could be cysts, abscesses, adenomas, intraductal papillomas, fat necrosis or lipomas. None of these are cancerous but they can be painful and there can be other issues, such as discharge or dimpling of the skin at the specific part of the breast. There are several ways to check for lumps in your breast but you should not consider any of the methods to be conclusive. A self exam should be considered as a preliminary check, just to be aware of the unexplained developments in the breast.
Easy Ways to Check for Lumps in your Breast
The simplest method is observation. You can look at your breasts in a mirror and try to spot any aberration. The room should be well lit and the mirror should be large enough for you to get a proper view. You must stand upright with your arms alongside and shoulders stretched appropriately so the chest is broadened. Do not slouch or bend in any way. Make sure your spine is absolutely upright when you conduct this self exam. Only then would you get a true picture of any aberration or the lack of it. However, you should not stretch your back in any manner that is clearly unnatural and not a correct posture.
The aberrations you must be looking for are basically any type of anomaly. There could be some swelling. Some part of your breast may not be its natural shape or form. You may find a visible lump, kind of protruding under the skin. You may not see any such protrusion or bulging. It is possible some parts of your breast would appear to have a different skin tone. It is also common for breasts to vary in size if there are lumps. Dimpling, puckering and bulging are common signs of lumps in breast. The exact position and form of nipples may change if the lumps are in the areola. Redness, rash, soreness and swelling are also common symptoms of lumps in breast.
There is no specific part of the breast where you may have a lump. It could be anywhere in your breast. Hence, you should not only observe the obvious posterior side but also the lateral sides. This is not easy to observe if you simply turn and look at your breast sideways. You must raise your arms and check for signs of aberration. Make sure your posture remains natural and upright when you raise your arms. Do not bend or lean. Do not stretch your arms excessively. Be normal as you would stand straight and check the sides of your breast. You should look for the same anomalies mentioned in the previous step.
A visual self exam may fail to indicate anything if the lump is too subtle. It is quite possible for a lump to develop without any effects on the skin or at the epidermal levels. A physical exam is necessary to locate such lumps. You should use your index, middle and ring fingers joined together and move them circularly from one small part of your breast to the next till you cover the entire organ. You should be gentle but not too subtle with the pressure that you cannot feel anything other than the skin or what is on the surface. You should exert a gentle pressure in a sustained manner. Think of a massage and how you would relieve tension in the muscles with gentle pressures. Use small circular motions so you can focus on every part of your breast without missing even a millimetre. This self exam should not be confined to the breast but must extend sideways, upwards to the collar bones and downwards to beneath the breasts. The motions should cover your cleavage and armpits.
The comprehensive visual and physical exams should be able to infer if there are any lumps. It is possible for tiny lumps to go unspotted in both these inspections, which is why an ultrasound is recommended. You can also perform the physical exam while lying down on the bed or a yoga mat. You can also sit down and perform this exam. It is best to perform the physical exam while standing up, sitting and lying down. Some lumps can be felt while you are standing while some can be felt only when you lay down. Some symptoms are more forthcoming, such as yellowish, watery or milky discharge from one or both nipples. There may be a tinge of blood discharged. Such symptoms warrant immediate medical intervention.
Exercise Caution during the Physical Self Exam
If you think there is a lump or more in your breasts, then you must exercise caution. You would not know if it is a tumor or caused by an infection. You do not know its exact form and state. Hence, it is quite possible exerting too much pressure would worsen the lump. Do not use excessive pressure. Also, do not be alarmed and avoid panicking if you feel something. Lumps are common and not just in breasts but various parts of the body. Only a thorough medical diagnosis should infer what the lump is and you must opt for the appropriate remedies subsequently.