Self-examinations: inspecting your body Self-examinations: inspecting your body

Self-examinations: inspecting your body

Prevention 1 August, 2017 Isabel Vallejo


Breast and testicular self-examinations are easy to do. It is easy to make them part of a health routine or practice in order to detect any abnormalities on time.

Medical Advisors Diana María Montoya Velásquez, obgyn
Iván Darío López Arango, Urologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare

According to the WHO, the most common type of cancer among women is breast cancer. Among men between ages 15 and 35, testicular cancer is the most common type.

It is therefore important to observe and feel around the breasts are testicles once a month in order for people to become more familiar with their bodies and be able to more easily detect any abnormality, be seen by a physician on time, and if an early diagnosis is made, increase the chances of not being as affected by the disease.

Breast self-exam

This self-exam is not a 100% guarantee of achieving a breast cancer diagnosis because if the growth is very small, it may not be able to be detected. This exam should therefore not serve as a replacement, but as a complement to the clinical breast exam and mammogram (which every woman should do annually once they turn 50).

Women should begin to conduct breast self-exams upon the age of their first menstruation and should continue to do so for the rest of their life. It is best to make a habit of it and perform the exam in the first days after the woman’s period has ended, which is when the breasts are most tender and swollen. If you no longer menstruate, choose a day to always perform the exam on each month.

Gynecologist and obstetrician, Diana Montoya Velásquez, explains how breast tissue is not always smooth as it is a gland and most women can feel areas that are denser or have lumps. It is also important to note that there are also lymph nodes (soft, spherical masses that are sensitive and can move upon touch) in the armpits, that should not be confused with a cancerous growth (which are generally hard, solid, are not sensitive and do not move upon touch.

Breast self-exams are used to observe the breasts and detect whether there are any changes in color, size or shape. They are also used to determine if there is a burning sensation, or changes in the texture of the skin such as indentations, retractions, wrinkles, ulcers, dimpling, puckering, sores, scaly skin or skin that looks like an orange peel; and if there is nipple retraction, nipple deviation or changes to its color. Breasts and armpits are also probed to detect the presence of masses, and the nipple is pinched to detect the discharge of any blood or pus.

Testicular self-exam

A testicular self-exam is best performed while taking a hot shower or immediately after a hot shower, as the scrotum and the muscle that is attached to the testicles are more relaxed, making them easier to feel.

Urologist Iván López Arango explains that when performing a testicular self-exam, it is important to determine whether one of the testicles is larger than the other (generally the one on the right) and that the epididymis (the structure that produces sperm) can be located at the top rear part of the testicle. The epididymis is a natural protrusion that can be painful when touched.

The main objective of the testicular self-exam is to detect whether there are areas that are harder or have a different density compared to the opposing testicle and to verify that both testicles are in the scrotal sac. Upon the detection of any lumps, it is important to get an urgent appointment with your urologist.

Other warning signs include pain or swelling in the testicles or in the area around the groin; a change in the testicle’s size, color or consistency; and a heavy, swelling sensation or any pain or discomfort in the scrotum.

36% cases of cancer in women throughout the world are breast cancer, according to the WHO.

90% to 95% of men that have testicular cancer, recover from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

Breast self-exam: make it a routine

  • Inspect all the areas of the breast in front of a mirror: first stand and with your arms hanging at your waist, then put them on your waist and last, raise them above your head.
  • First conduct the exam using light touch, then do so using a firm touch. Laying down with a pillow under your left shoulder, lift your left arm, and use the three middle fingers of your right hand to feel around your left breast. Divide the breast into four sections and examine each section.
  • Also examine your armpits and nipples.
  • two-step testicular self-exam

First exam and one testicle and then the other

  • Hold the testicle with one hand as the other presses down with the thumb, index and middle finger. Examine the entire surface of the testicle, including its top and bottom.
  • Apply light pressure and roll it between your fingers.