Breast Self Examination
Conducting these exams regularly helps you familiarize yourself with the look and feel of your breasts so that you can more easily detect changes and avoid breast cancer. Read this article to learn How to Do a Self Breast Exam.
When to Do Self Breast Exam
Early detection is critical in treating breast cancer, so adult women of all ages are encouraged to conduct self-examinations once every month.
How to Perform a Self Breast Exam
Breast self-exams should be performed in 3 different ways – in front of a mirror, in the shower, and lying down.
1. Visual Examination in Front of a Mirror
Stand in front of a mirror with your shirt and bra off. Be sure that you are in a well-lit area and that you can clearly see your entire chest area.
Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Look for the following things: changes in the contour of the breasts, unusual swelling, dimpling of the skin, or changes in the shape of the nipple.
Raise both of your arms over your head. Again, look for any changes in breast contour, swelling, dimpling of the skin, or changes in the shape of the nipple.
Bring your arms back down to your sides. Press your palms firmly on your hips to flex your chest muscles. Look for any dimpling, puckering, or other unusual changes in the appearance of your breasts.
Report any changes to your healthcare provider. Report any visual changes you notice to your healthcare provider so that he or she can conduct a proper examination.
2. In the Shower
Lift your right arm over your head and use your left hand to examine your right breast. Use the pads of your fingers to feel around the entire breast area in circular motions. Feel for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot.
- Breast tissue extends from the nipple to underneath the armpit. Be sure to check the entire area of your breast, including the armpits and along the sides of your breast.
Bring your arm back down, and repeat the examination on your left breast. Again, move your fingers in circular motions and feel for lumps, knots, or thickening.
Report any changes to your healthcare provider. If you feel an unusual lump or knot in your breast, then let your healthcare provider know immediately so that he or she can conduct a proper examination. Do not wait.
3. Lying Down
Lie down on your back with a pillow or towel underneath your right shoulder. Rest your right arm behind your head.
Use your left hand to gently feel the entire breast area in small circular motions. Be sure to feel the sides of your breasts and right armpit area as well. Feel for any lumps, thickening, or knots.
- Use light, medium, and hard pressure.
Squeeze your nipple gently with your left hand. Check for any discharge or lumps in the nipple.
Repeat the examination on the left breast. Again, use small circular motions to check the left breast for lumps, thickening, knots, or discharge.
Report any changes to your doctor. If you find any unusual lumps, thickening, knots, or discharge, then make an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately so that he or she can conduct a proper examination.
- Self breast exams alone are not sufficient to properly detect breast cancer, and should be combined with regular doctor appointments and mammogram screenings.
- Remember that mammograms can detect breast cancer before a visible lump can be felt or seen.
- A woman’s breast cancer risk increases with age. Women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk for breast cancer than those under 50.
- Breast cancer risk is higher for women who have a history of breast cancer in the family. Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer nearly doubles a woman’s risk.
- Breast cancer occurs in men as well, so men should also conduct these self-screenings. However, breast cancer is 100 times more common in women.
Now that you know how to do a breast self exam, perform it regularly to ensure you are always in good health.
(Adapted from How to Do a Breast Self Exam.)