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Hello ladies! I hope you are all having a great day. Before I begin with what I have for you today, I will like to ask a question. Have your breasts been examined in the past one year? Kudos to you if your answer was yes, especially if you checked it yourself. Physical breasts examination involves looking and touching the breasts for the purpose of identifying any changes from its normal state. It is easier to detect a change from what it used to look or feel like if you often check your breasts. This examination might help in early detection of breast diseases and prompt seeking of health care when the cure rate is likely high. You can do it yourself or have your health care provider do it for you. If you have not done one before because you do not know how, do not worry as I will outline a step by step guide on how to perform one for yourself.

WHO SHOULD HAVE PHYSICAL BREAST EXAMINATION?

  • As an adjunct for screening women with risk factors for developing breast cancer in low resource settings.
  • The American college of obstetricians and gynaecologist recommends that females aged 19 years and above should have breast examination. 
  • It should be part of clinical examination for all women who present to a healthcare provider especially at any first visit to a gynaecologist with or without breast complaint including visits to preconception clinic, family planning clinic and antenatal booking clinic.

BREAST SELF EXAMINATION

This is when you check your breast yourself for any abnormality. It is important that every female from age 19 years should be taught breast self- awareness. She should know that the breast changes in size with the stages of the menstrual cycle and might be tender. Therefore, it is important to pick a specific period to check the breast every month preferably few days after the menses. It is possible that breast self-examination might not detect some cancers in the early stage however regular examination of the breasts increases the chances of detection of breast abnormalities. It important to report to your health care provider when you notice any abnormal change in your breast. Note that it is normal for one breast to be slightly bigger than the other.

STEP BY STEP GUIDE ON HOW TO PERFORM A BREAST SELF EXAMINATION

  • STEP 1: Pick a date preferably few days after your menses
  • STEP 2: Stand in front of a mirror with the breast exposed
  • STEP 3: Observe both breasts for any obvious change in size, shape, colour or any swelling. If you have a pendulous breast lift the breasts to look underneath it.
  • STEP 4: Place both hands on your waist and press down then observe the breasts again.
  • STEP 5: Gently lift both hands up from the position in step 4 while you observe for changes
  • STEP 6: Draw an imaginary box with one of the vertical lines on the right side of the breast and the other on the left. Then one of the horizontal lines below the collar bone and the other below the breast.
  • STEP 7: you can do this lying down, to examine the left breast, place the left hand behind your head and use the right hand to examine then, do the reverse on the right breast. Use the pads of your fingers not the tip.
  • STEP 8: Move your fingers downwards in a vertical direction starting from below the collar bone. Gently press down from one end of the imaginary box to the other, repeat until you cover the box. Gently squeeze the nipple for any discharge.
  • STEP 9: you can repeat step 7 and 8 when taking your bath as the skin is wet the fingers move freely.
  • STEP 10: If you notice any swelling, dimpling, puckering, nipple discharge or unusual pain please see your health care provider.
PLEASE WATCH

CLINICAL BREAST EXAMINATION

This is carried out by a trained health care provider whenever a female comes to the hospital with any breast complaint. It can be done annually depending on a woman’s risk factors for developing breast cancer. It can also be done as part of physical examination for any woman even if her complaints have nothing to do with the breast. This is so because, some women do not check their breasts and those who do, might not be doing it properly. It is not a common occurrence to have a woman walk into the doctor’s office for the purpose of having her breasts checked. So, doing a clinical breasts examination as part of physical examination for all women is important. The doctor might just be saving a life by merely carrying out the examination. The clinical breast examination is more elaborate than the self-examination. Other regions of the body that might be examined by the doctor depending on the findings on the breast will include the armpit, above the collar bone, the chest and abdomen. 

 LIMITATIONS TO CLINICAL BREASTS EXAMINATION

  • When consent is not given.
  • Provider or patient discomfort.
  • Fear of misinterpretation of attention to the patient’s breasts, and that is why the procedure must be explained to the patient and a chaperone should be present.
  • Lack of knowledge or skill with the technique.

I hope this article was useful to you. Follow me on my blog to get more articles on women’s health as they are published, especially my up- coming article on breast diseases. You can also share on social media so your friends can benefit.