October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and always a good reminder to get yourself examined. And this isn’t just for the ladies. Gentlemen, it is also possible for you to get breast cancer. A clinical breast exam is always recommended (at least every one to three years) but it’s also advisable to self-examine your breasts monthly.
Here’s how you can conduct a self-examination:
1. Take about 15 minutes monthly to self-examine your breasts. You can do this a few days after your period ends and your breasts are less tender.
2. With your hands akimbo, stand topless in front of a mirror and look at your breasts. Note if there any changes in the size, shape, texture, contour or colour of your breasts (nipples and areolas included).
3. Raise both arms over your head to see if your breasts move in the same way and degree as each other. Look at the size, shape, and drape, checking for symmetry. Note any changes. Look up toward your armpits and note if there is any swelling where your lymph nodes are (lower armpit area).
4. Lower both arms and check your nipples for dimples, bumps, indentations or discharge. You can do this by gently squeezing and pulling each nipple with your middle and index fingers. Your nipples should spring back into place not sink back. Bloody (red) or clear discharge are potentially worrisome, especially if either is coming out of only one nipple. Other colors, such as green, white, or yellow, are usually signs of other conditions, such as an infection or a blocked milk duct.
5. In the shower, raise each arm and use the other hand’s fingers to apply gentle pressure to your breast and armpit area. Stroke from the top to the bottom of the breast, moving across from the inside of the breast all the way into your armpit area. You can also use a circular motion, being sure to cover the entire breast area. Take note of any changes in the texture, color, or size. Switch sides and repeat.
6. Lying down on your bed, put one hand behind your head and use the other hand to stroke your breast and underarm (like you did in the shower).
Report any changes or unusual pain to your doctor or practitioner. If you find a lump during your self-examination, try not to panic. Most lumps found in the breast are benign.
To help you remember, you can set monthly reminders and keep track of changes you notice.