Breast self-exam, or regularly examining your breasts on your own, can be an important way to find a breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be treated successfully. While no single test can detect all breast cancers early, performing breast self-exam in combination with other screening methods can increase the odds of early detection.
It only takes 10 minutes!
Do a self examination every month, at the same time, ideally one week after your menstruation and on the same day if post menopause. Any changes or abnormalities noted during your monthly self examination should be reported to your physician without delay.
Stand in front of a mirror, hands on hips and look carefully at each breast separately and comparatively for any changes.
Raise your arms over your head and look at each breast as you turn slowly from side to side.
Bend forward and look at each breast with your hands on your hips and shoulders turned in, then with your arms relaxed and hanging in front of you.
Stand with one hand behind your head and with flattened fingers of your other hand gently examine your entire breast area (breast, nipple area from armpit to collar bone and below breast) in a circular rubbing motion. Examine your other breast in the same way. You can do this in the shower with soapy hands.
Lying down, with one hand behind your head follow the same instructions as above. Check your nipples for any discharge.
How to make breast self-exam part of your breast cancer screening strategy
Make it routine. The more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become for you to tell if something has changed. Try to get in the habit of doing a breast self-examination once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel.
Get to know your breasts’ different “areas.” The upper, outer area — near your armpit — tends to have the most prominent lumps and bumps. The lower half of your breast can feel like a sandy or pebbly beach. The area under the nipple can feel like a collection of large grains. Another part might feel like a lumpy bowl of oatmeal.
Start a journal where you record the findings of your breast self-exams. This can be like a small map of your breasts, with notes about where you feel lumps or irregularities. Especially in the beginning, this may help you remember, from month to month, what is “normal” for your breasts. It is not unusual for lumps to appear at certain times of the month, but then disappear, as your body changes with the menstrual cycle (if you are still menstruating).