Self Breast Exam

A monthly self breast exam is an important tool in detecting breast cancer early.

Monthly Breast Self-Exam
Your monthly breast self-exam is an important part of your breast-care program. Examine your breasts about one week after your period ends. If you do not have regular periods, examine your breasts on the first day of each month. Breast self-exams are easy to do and they only take a few minutes. By checking your breasts each month, you will know how your breasts normally look and feel, and you will be able to detect changes more easily.

The following instructions will enable you to easily and efficiently perform your own breast self-exam in three specific manners to allow the best possible familiarity and detection.

In Front of a Mirror

  1. Stand with your arms at your sides and look for changes in the shape, size or skin texture of your breasts.
  2. Raise your hands above your head and repeat the exam above, again looking for any changes.
  3. Press your hands firmly against your hips, flex your chest muscles, and repeat the visual exam a third time.
  4. Check nipples for a discharge other than breast milk.

Lying Down

  1. To examine your right breast, place a pillow under your right shoulder. Put your right arm behind your head.
  2. Use the finger pads (not the fingertips) of the middle fingers of your left hand to press firmly on your right breast.

    You can use and of the three techniques shown below to examine your breasts. Use the same method each time.

  3. Be sure to run your fingers over the entire breast, including your underarm area. Check for lumps or thickening.
  4. Do not pick up your hand until the exam is completed.
  5. Switch the pillow or towel to your left shoulder, put your left arm behind your head, and repeat steps with right hand on left breast.

In the Shower
Your fingers slide more easily over wet, soapy skin. This may make lumps and other changes easier to feel. Remember to check your entire breast and underarm area.

  1. Stand in the shower and use the same technique as the lying down exam.
  2. Use your right hand for your left breast, left hand for your right breast.

Report any changes or irregularities to your healthcare professional immediately.

Clinical Breast Exam
Remember, breast self-exams are just one part of your complete breast-care program. Clinical breast exams and mammograms are the other two "must do" steps.

During the clinical breast exam, your healthcare professional will check your breasts, often using the same finger-touch technique you use for your monthly breast self-exam. A physical exam by a professional provides you with a second opinion about the condition of your breasts.

If you need advice about how to do your breast self-exam, you can ask for it now or when you have a mammogram.

Healthcare professionals can help you do your own breast self-exam or demonstrate the proper technique on a breast form. They can also answer any questions or concerns you may have about your breast health.

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of your breasts. It can detect many breast changes that are too small or too deep to feel. Today's mammograms are generally considered safe, quick, and relatively painless. They are available to women through a doctor's orders or, in some cases, a self-referral.

Be sure that the mammography center you use is accredited by the American College of Radiology. They evaluate mammography units for equipment, quality, staff qualifications, quality of image, and amount of patient exposure to radiation. On the day of your mammogram, do not use any kind of deodorant, lotions, cream, or powder on your underarms or breasts. These can interfere with a clear x-ray. The results of your mammogram are usually sent to your doctor.

Find more information on what to expect and how to prepare, make a Make a Mammogram Appointment.