Performing a breast self-exam is an important part of breast health awareness. Regular breast exams can help you become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, making it easier to detect any changes that may trigger further evaluation. Regular checks will help ensure early breast cancer diagnosis which would reduce your chances of requiring breast reconstruction surgery. Here's how to do a breast self-exam:

Choose a time: It's best to perform a breast self-exam about once a month, preferably a few days after your period when your breasts are less likely to be swollen or tender. If you don't have regular periods, you can pick a specific day each month. Think you won’t remember? Set a reminder on your phone or calendar.

Find a comfortable spot: Stand in front of a mirror in a well-lit room. You may also want to perform part of the exam lying down, or in the shower.

1.      Look for visual changes: Changes in size or shape, changes in the skin, like dimpling or puckering. Nipple changes including inversion, discharge. Redness, swelling, or rash on or around the nipple or areola.

2.      Raise your arms: With your arms at your sides, raise them above your head and look for the same changes as mentioned above, occasionally you may see a lump as the breast tissue moves. Next put your hands on your hips and press your hands inwards.

3.      Examine each breast: I find this easiest if you imagine your breast to be like a clock, in a circular motion work your way around from 1 to 12, gently but firmly feeling the tissue for any new or changes in lumps.

4.      Then feel up into your armpit for any lumps there.

5.      You my find it easier to do this in the shower because the skin is slippery with soap or water. Use the same circular motion described above to examine each breast while standing.

Keep in mind that many women have naturally lumpy breasts and not all lumps are a cause for concern. However, if you notice any changes or feel something unusual, consult your doctor for further evaluation.

Breast self-exams are not a substitute for regular clinical breast exams by a doctor or your screening mammogram. If you have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, it's especially important to discuss screening and breast health with your doctor. Early detection is crucial in the management of breast cancer, so regular breast exams, along with other screening methods as recommended by your healthcare provider, can help with early detection and timely intervention.

A video accompanying this article is on my Instagram page  DrLia(@drliabrugha) • Instagram photos and videos