We’ve all heard the reminders to check our breasts at least once a month, but when it comes down to it, the process can be more intimidating than it sounds.

To make things a little easier, we’ve put together a checklist so you can take the first step in being more proactive about your breast health.

Step 1: Choose the Right Time

Schedule your self-examination at a time when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen, typically a few days after your menstrual period ends. If you no longer menstruate, choose a specific day each month for consistency, such as the first of the month.

Step 2: Find a Comfortable Spot

Stand or sit in front of a mirror in a well-lit room. Ensure that you can see your breasts clearly.

Step 3: Examine Your Breasts Visually

Raise your arms and inspect your breasts in the mirror. Look for any changes in size, shape, or contour. Check for dimpling, puckering, or changes in skin texture.

Step 4: Check for Nipple Changes

Inspect your nipples for any discharge, rash, or inversion. Note any changes in the appearance or position of your nipples.

Step 5: Perform a Manual Examination

Lie down on your back and place a pillow under your right shoulder. Use your left hand to examine your right breast. Use the pads of your fingers in a circular motion to feel for lumps or abnormalities. Move from the outer edges toward the nipple in a systematic pattern.

Switch sides and repeat the manual examination on your left breast, using your right hand.

Step 6: Check Your Armpits

Breast tissue extends into the armpit area, so it’s essential to examine this area as well. Feel your armpits for any lumps or swollen lymph nodes.

Step 7: Stand Up and Re-examine

Stand up and repeat steps 3 and 4 while facing the mirror. Check for any changes in the appearance of your breasts while standing.

If you detect any abnormalities during your self-examination or have concerns about your breast health, don’t panic. Most women have lumps either all the time or just from time to time, and most breast lumps turn out to be benign. That being said, if you do notice anything new or unusual, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Once you’ve gotten into a regular routine of checking your breasts, you’ll become better at identifying any changes. To make sure you’re not forgetting anything, you may even want to start a “breast journal” where you record the findings of your self-exams.

Early detection saves lives. Make self-examinations a regular part of your healthcare routine so you can detect changes and be proactive about your breast health.

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