How to Properly Perform a Breast Self-Exam

One way that you can take an active role in your breast health care is by practicing monthly breast self-examinations.  Beginning at 20 years old, the best time to do the exam is two weeks after the start of your menstrual period.  If you have started menopause, choose a day and perform the examination on the same day each month.  Performing self-examinations, in combination with other screening methods, may increase the likelihood of early detection of breast cancer.  Breast self-exam is important for women with and without breast implants.

How to properly perform a breast self-exam:

  1. Standing straight and facing a mirror, look for any changes in breast size, shape or color such as:
  • dimpling, puckering or bulging skin;
  • a nipple that has watery, milky, yellow or bloody discharge, has changed in position or become inverted; and/or
  • redness, soreness, rash or swelling .
  1. Raise arms above your head and repeat the steps above.
  2. While lying down, use your right hand to examine your left breast, and your left hand to examine your right breast. Using your first few finger pads, with fingers flat and together, use a firm, small, circular motion to cover the entire breast from top to bottom and side to side.  Move your fingers vertically in rows.  Use light pressure to feel skin and tissue just beneath your fingertips.  Use medium, pressure for middle breast tissue.  Use firm pressure for deep breast tissue.
  3. While standing or sitting, complete the same steps mentioned above in Step 3. Repeat the steps with both breasts.

The goal of breast self-examination is to become familiar with what is normal for your breasts.  It may help to journal any notes you wish to remember month to month.  Don’t panic if you do find a lump or concern, but consult your doctor for evaluation and any necessary treatment.  Make self-breast self-examination a regular part of your healthcare routine!

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