In honor of National No Bra Day, a day dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness and celebrating strong women, we are ditching our bras and reminding you to check on your girls by learning how to properly self-examine at home.
We know we aren't the only ones with a 12 step morning routine, so what's one more? We're adding in a regular self breast exam right after cleansing and moisturizing.
Don't know what you're doing? You're not the only one, we put together some tips + tricks from what we've learned and we also chatted with Melinda Williams RN, @thernceo, #bootaybabe and breast cancer survivor to fact check our how-to and answer some questions around self breast checks.
What age should I start self-examining at home?
You’re never too young to get started and if you haven’t yet, start now! It’s recommended that you start your breast exams at 21 years old. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it is recommended that you begin clinical exams ten years prior to the age at which they were diagnosed.
How often should I be doing it?
Monthly! You don't have to do it every day but at least do it once a month. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar for the same day every month so you don't forget! Make sure it's three days before or three days after your menstrual cycle.
What am I looking/feeling for?
Anything that you think shouldn't be there - abnormal lumps, painful areas with no explanation, discharge... don't just check your breasts! Be sure to check for lumps under your arms too. This is commonly missed in self-exams. Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes, even our own sometimes, but only larger than normal discrepancies with unusual dimpling are ones to look out for.
How long does a self exam take and does it matter what time of day I do it?
Just a few minutes! There is no reason you can't fit it into your day once a month! It's best to do it first thing in the morning in front of a mirror or immediately after you shower (or in the shower). Do it while your coffee brews or while your face mask soaks in. You'll definitely be able to find somewhere to fit it in to your morning routine.
How to do a proper breast self-exam at home in 5 quick + easy steps:
- Stand with your arms at your sides and examine your breasts in the mirror. Raise your arms and do the same. Again, you're looking for any dimpling, changes in size, visible lumps or abnormalities.
- With the three middle fingers of your left hand, gently yet firmly press down using small motions to examine the entire right breast. Be sure to do the same with the other side! Feel anything unusual? Once you start doing these regularly, you'll notice what's supposed to be there and recognize if something new appears.
- Gently squeeze each nipple looking for any discharge.
- Stand or sit to examine and feel your underarms. This step is commonly missed but breast tissue is also in the underarm area!
- Remember, no question or concern is 'stupid' or 'dumb'. You know your body best and if something seems unusual, consult a doctor to be checked out and at the least set your mind to ease.