Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam

Breast self-examination is a no-cost and easy tool that women of all ages can use to monitor their breast health. Regularly examining your breasts can aid in finding cancer early, particularly when used in combination with regular physical exams and routine mammograms.

Step 1:

Start by looking in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling.

If you see any of the following changes, notify your physician:

  • Dimpling, puckering or budging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
  • Redness, soreness, a rash or swelling

Step 2:

Raise your arms and look for the same changes.

Step 3:

While at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples. This could be blood or a watery, milky, or yellow fluid.

Step 4:

Now, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter. Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side—from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast.

Step 5:

Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4.

If you find a lump:

DON’T panic. Many women have lumps in their breasts, and most turn out to be non-cancerous. There are a variety of causes for benign breast lumps such as changes in hormone levels, an injury or some women have what is called a benign breast condition—the unusual growth of lumps or other changes in the breast tissue that are not cancer.

DO call your healthcare provider. Finding a lump or other breast changes that are new can be worrisome. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor and explain the changes you have discovered. He or she will help determine your best course of action, provide you with the care you need and help put your mind at ease.

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Health Fact

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.