5 Self Breast Exam Mistakes You're Probably Making

breast examIf you're doing self breast exams, kudos to you. You're on the right track and doing one important thing you can do in the fight against breast cancer. But all self breast exams aren't equal (or helpful), and the chances that you're doing them wrong are pretty high.

It's not that they're that complicated, so if you're not doing them already, don't be intimidated. It's just that a few little things can make a big difference when it comes to their effectiveness. Here are five of the most common mistakes women make when performing self breast exams.


1. Your timing isn't right.

Exams should be done at the same time each month so that you can become familiar with what your breasts look and feel like at a certain point in your cycle. It's also suggested that you do them at the time your breasts are least likely to be sore or swollen, such as a few days after your period.

2. You don't take enough time.

It's not enough to do just a few quick squeezes. It's best to do a series of checks both standing up and lying down. The American Cancer Society has a comprehensive guide that provides step-by-step instructions. A thorough exam should take between 5 to 10 minutes.

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3. You stop at your breasts.

You should also check your armpits and your entire chest area up to your neck.

4. You only look for lumps.

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, other signs to look for include the following:

  • Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New pain in one spot that doesn't go away

5. You only do self-exams

Self breast exams should not be done instead of those performed by doctors. They should be done in addition to them.

Do you perform monthly self breast exams? What mistakes are you making?


Image via glokbell/Flickr

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