“We have long known of a clear relation between nodule hardness and risk of malignancy. Since a hard nodule is easier to feel by the clinician or the patient, it would seem likely that the easily felt nodule may be more suspicious,” said Robert A Levine, MD, medical director of the Thyroid Center of New Hampshire. “We are hoping to see [new] guidelines for the incidentally found nodules, as the current recommendations are scant. I hope that endocrinologist and primary care physicians will better appreciate the importance of physical examination as a means of finding the more suspicious nodules,” said Levine.
Let’s Get Started!
Thyroid Disease Self Exam
Thyroid Neck Self-Check
1) Hold a mirror so that you see the area around your neck and just below the Adam’s apple and right above the collarbone. This is the general location of your thyroid gland.
2) Tip your head back, while keeping this view of your neck and thyroid area in your mirror.
3) Take a drink of water and swallow.
4) As you swallow, look at your neck. Watch carefully for any bulges, enlargement, protrusions or unusual appearances in this area when you swallow.
5) Repeat the process several times.
6) If you see any bulges, protrusions, lumps or anything that appears unusual, see your doctor as soon as possible.
1) Remove all clothes above the waist. Lie down.
**Use the pads of the three middle fingers of your left hand, (not your fingertips) to check your right breast. Move your fingers in small circles. Using three different levels of pressure, light pressure is needed to feel the tissue close to the skin surface. Medium pressure to feel a little deeper and firm pressure is used to feel tissue close to your breastbone and ribs.
Check your entire breast using a lengthwise strip pattern. Feel ALL of the tissue from the
collarbone to the bra line and from the armpit to the breastbone.
2) Repeat until you have covered the entire breast. Repeat procedure for your left breast.
3) You can also examine your breasts using a spiral pattern. Avoid lifting your fingers away from skin as you feel for lumps, unusual thicknesses or changes of any kind.
You may also examine your breasts while in the shower. Soapy fingers slide easily across the breast and may increase your chances of detecting a change.
1) While standing, place one arm over your head and lightly soap your breast on that side. Then use the flat surface of your fingers and gently move your hand over your breast in the strip pattern described above.
Most breast tissue has some lumps or thick tissue. Pay attention to any lump that feels much harder than the rest of your breast. If you find anything that concerns you, visit your doctor. Most changes are not breast cancer but should be checked. The best time to perform a breast self-exam
Is one week after your menstrual period begins. If you have an irregular menstrual period or you have stopped menstruating, choose one day of the month and do it every month.
Changes may include:
Any new lump (May or may not be painful)
Unusual thick areas
Sticky or bloody discharge from nipples
Changes in skin of breasts or nipples puckering/dimpling
Unusual increase in size of one breast
One breast unusually lower than the other
Skin Cancer Self-Exam
1) Examine your face-nose, mouth, lips and both sides of your ears. Use hand mirrors.
2) Examine your scalp. Ask someone to help if needed. Use a blow dryer to move your hair.
3) Check hands. Look between finger and under fingernails. Move up to the wrists and look at front and back of forearms.
4) Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Start at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms including the underarms.
5) Focus now on the neck, chest and torso. Ladies should also lift breasts and view the undersides!
6) Back to the full-length mirror. Inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back.
7) Using two hand mirrors, scan your lower back and the backs of both legs. Check out that buttocks!
8) Sit down on a chair. Prop each leg on another chair or stool. Use hand mirror to examine your genitals, front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, and tops of feet. Don’t forget to look between toes and under toenails. Check the soles of feet and your heels.
The skin cancer foundation recommends everyone do a head to toe monthly self-examination! The exam may seem like a lot of work but once you get used to it you should be able to perform it in 10 minutes. More than two million Americans are afflicted with skin cancer each year. With early detection it is the most curable form of this disease.
Did you know May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month? Go to www.skincancer.org to make a donation and start your exams today!
Prostate Self-Exam and Partner Self-Exam
A man can feel his own prostate. A walnut-sized organ at the base of the bladder, it can be felt with the tip of a finer inserted into the rectum. Its firmness and texture should feel similar to the flesh between your thumb and the rest of your hand as you make a fist. If you feel anything that is as firm as the knuckle, then that needs to be reported to your doctor.
Some men prefer to do the exam in the shower using soap as a lubricant. Remember, you need to get the palm surface of your finger in contact with the prostate. (The fingernail surface can be used for a cursory exam.) Some of you may feel more comfortable if you wear a thin latex glove.
Self exam with your Partner
The man’s prostate is very sensitive. He can tell you when it’s being touched. You will have to reach deep. You want to cover all surfaces and be consistent in how you approach it. Use a sweeping motion of the finger on one side, and then switch to the other side.
Feel for the rounded shape and the borders of the prostate. If it feels larger than a walnut, the man could have an enlarged prostate gland. Report this to your doctor.
Make sure your finger touches as much of the in-between tissue as possible. The prostate gland is fairly firm. You are feeling for any hardness or inconsistency in texture. If any part feels harder you should report this to your doctor. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if you are unsure. The Prostate can be examined by the patient or his partner at six month intervals in between your yearly exam.
Self examinations are not meant to be a substitute for a doctor performing these exams. They are used as an interim measure. VISIT YOUR DOCTOR REGULARLY.
By Mary Staller