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Self Examinations  (Women, Intersex People, Men)

Self-examinations are easy and potentially life-saving. Whether you are a woman, a man, or intersex, become the proactive steward of your own sexual health and an informed partner with your health care provider; make self-exams a regular part of your monthly wellness routine.

Women  

vulva external
Pelvic Self-Examination
Examine your vulva on a monthly basis. Make a comfortable, warm environment for this where you will be undisturbed by phone calls or marauding family members. You'll need a good mirror that is large enough to show your whole vulva but is still small enough so that you can prop it up between your legs; good lighting; and a clean plastic speculum that's been heated in warm -not hot - sterile water.

Check your whole vulva thoroughly, opening the labial folds, and retracting the clitoral hood.

Your doctor or informed friend can show you how to use a speculum so that you can examine the inside of your vaginal canal and your cervix.

  Speculum

Note any unusual changes in color or texture not related to your normal menstrual cycle.

Any sores, rashes, or bumps,

unusual discharge, mucus or smell.

Any itching or discomfort.  

If you see - or feel - anything that causes you concern, make an appointment with your gynecologist right away. Take a picture of anything notable if possible, because symptoms can come and go and don’t always appear when we want to show them to our doctor! 

Breast Self-Examination
A monthly breast self-exam needs to be part of every woman's wellness routine. Self-exams help detect breast cancer early, which can make the difference between a successful course of treatment and a poor prognosis. Why ignore such a valuable tool when it is quick, simple to do, and may save your life? 

How to give yourself a breast-exam
A thorough breast exam should be done twice
: once standing up, and once lying on your back with your knees lifted by a pillow or your feet braced comfortably on the ground. 

Hold your index and middle fingers together, and use them to gently but firmly palpitate all of the breast tissue and its connected muscles and glands, starting with the armpits and working inward in a circular pattern, circling in and around the breasts to the nipples. Be thorough. Feel for any hard bumps. 

When you have finished palpitating the nipples, gently squeeze them to see if any fluid comes out. Unless you are nursing, none should. 

If you notice anything irregular, inform your doctor immediately. Don't put it off by telling yourself it's probably nothing - it may be nothing, but if it is cancer, I repeat: an early diagnosis can save your life.  

 

 

 

 

Men 

  

Pelvic Self-Exam
Examine your genitals on a monthly basis. Check the whole  genital region thoroughly, inspecting the scrotal folds, looking at the bottom of your penis and retracting the foreskin.

Noting any unusual changes in color or texture.

Any sores, rashes, or bumps.

Any unusual discharge, mucus or smell.  

Any itching or discomfort.  

If you see anything that causes you concern, make an appointment with your doctor right away.

Testicular Self-Examination
Testicular cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer to afflict young men. Because of this prevalence, it is suggested that men begin testicular self-exams by age fifteen. If detected in its early stage, testicular cancer has a high cure rate. If neglected, it can be fatal. A monthly self-exam can make the difference in successful treatment. 
How to Give Yourself a Testicular Self-Exam
Gently cradle the scrotum in the palm of your hand and methodically palpitate all of the tissue. You will be able to feel your two testicles and the tubular epididymis’ behind them clearly once you become familiar with the feel of your scrotal sac.

Now place the index and middle fingers of each hand under your testicles, with the thumbs on top of them.

Roll each testicle slowly between your thumb and fingers, feeling carefully for any hard lumps. If you detect a lump, alert your doctor immediately. 

Breast Self-Exam
Men have breast tissue, too. And like women, they also get breast cancer
. The XY male does not lactate and cannot nurse a baby, but many of the breasts internal structures are the same in men as in women. Learning to give yourself a breast exam may catch cancer early and save your life. Is that worth a few minutes of your time a month?  

How to Give Yourself a Breast Exam

A thorough breast exam should be done twice: once standing up, and once lying on your back with your knees lifted by a pillow, so that your spine rests comfortably on the ground. (You can use the visual chart shown above for women to guide you; the same guidelines apply).

Hold your index and middle fingers together, and use them to gently but firmly palpitate all of the breast tissue and its connected muscles and glands, starting with the armpits and the muscles of the pectorals and circling in and around the breasts to the nipples. Feel for any hard lumps. Do not leave any tissue out. When you have finished palpitating the nipples, gently squeeze them to see if any fluid comes out. None should. 

If you notice anything irregular, inform your doctor immediately. Don't put it off by telling yourself it's probably nothing; it may be nothing, but if it is cancer, an early diagnosis can save your life. 

Mouth Self-Examination for Women, Intersex People and Men


Like your genitals, your mouth is made of mucosal tissue that is susceptible to many of the same diseases, including STIs and STI-related cancers. In front of a mirror with good lighting, check for the following:

 

Sores that appear on the mouth or the nearby skin.  
A dry or cracked texture at the corners of your mouth, with or without a white or yellow residue

Any unusual coating on the tongue.
 

These symptoms may indicate one of the STIs commonly transmitted through oral contact. If you see them, avoid sexual activity and bring them to the attention of your doctor for testing promptly.

Annual Examination with Your Doctor

Whether or not you detect anything amiss during your self-exams, it is a critical part of your wellness care to see a doctor for an annual exam, every single year of your life. Many illnesses’ that progress beyond treatment are the result of neglecting this wise preventative practice. Checking the state of your reproductive and sexual health is an essential part of this annual exam.

Make certain that all the following tests are performed:

Women

Breast Exam

Pelvic Exam (including a Pap smear)

Rectal Exam

STI Screening

Mammogram if applicable* 

*A mammogram is the utilization of an X-ray or imaging machine to see the internal content of the breast and inspect it for cancer - it is one of the key tools in detecting breast cancer early. Most women begin receiving annual mammograms between 40 and 50 years of age. Women with the breast cancer gene, a family history of breast cancer, or other medical conditions may begin having mammograms at a much younger age. Discuss with your doctor whether you should be receiving mammograms, and if so how often.


Men

Penis Exam
Prostate Exam

Testicular Exam

Rectal Exam

STI Screening

Breast (chest) exam for lumps

A Special Note to Intersex People


Knowing your body is the key to your sexual wellness. It is crucial that you pursue comprehensive knowledge about your particular intersex anatomy and physiology, and give yourself a thorough monthly self-exam, as well as attending an annual exam with a doctor who is informed about your unique body. You will need to perform a self-exam of your specific sex-traits. Know what they are, inside and out. Demand thoroughness from yourself; knowledge is constructive power.

Photos and images: "Spéculum en plastique". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 fr via Wikimedia Commons  Vagina039.jpg: Londoner500 derivative work: Lamilli
 
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