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DIY Health Checks: Breast Self-Exam

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this DIY health check is for cis women as well as trans women and trans men. It’s important to perform regular breast self-exams to detect any changes that may be a sign of breast cancer. Trans women may have a greater chance of getting breast cancer due to hormonal treatment. And while the risk for trans men is very low, it’s still a possibility due to some potential remaining breast tissue. Conduct the test once a month and at the same time every month as breasts go through subtle changes throughout the course of a menstrual cycle. So how do you do a self exam? Start with your arms at your sides and using a mirror, look for signs of swelling, redness, dimpling of the skin, contouring and changes in the nipples (including retraction or puckering). Then raise your arms high overhead and repeat this visual examination. Next, while standing, raise your arm above your head and using the pads of your three middle fingers, check the entire breast and armpit area by pressing down with light, medium and firm pressure looking for any lumps, swelling, hardened knots, new sensitivity, pain or other changes. Repeat on both sides. Finally, repeat the exam lying down. Place your right arm behind your head and with your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast and armpit, again using light, medium and firm pressure. Repeat on the other side and look also look for changes in the nipples, including any discharge. Of course, self-checks do not replace the need for mammograms as well, however 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by self-exams so make sure you get on a monthly at-home schedule with yourself!

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