Breast Self Examination
Breast Self Examination is an examination by a woman of her own breasts for any changes. It is recommended that women over the age of 18 examine their breasts monthly.
Regular Breast Self Examination can help in finding changes in the breast that occur between mammograms. Women who are still menstruating should examine their breasts at the end of the menstrual cycle and women who have stopped menstruating should examine their breasts on the same day each month.
How to perform a breast self Examination
- Look at your breasts while standing in front of a mirror. It is normal for the breasts to differ slightly in size. Look for changes in the size difference between your breasts. Look for changes in the nipple, such as the nipple turning inward (inverted nipple) or a discharge from the nipple. Also look for puckering or dimpling.
- Watching closely in the mirror, join your hands behind the head and press them against the head. Look for changes in the shape and contour of your breasts, especially the lower part of your breast.
- You may wish to perform the next part of the examination in the shower when your skin is wet and slippery. Raise your left arm. Using three or four fingers of your right hand, probe your left breast thoroughly with the flat part of the fingers. Moving the fingers in small circles around your breast, begin at the outer edge and gradually move in toward the nipple. Press gently but firmly, feeling for any unusual lump or mass under the skin. Be sure to check the whole breast. Also, carefully probe the area between your breast and underarm, including your underarm, for lumps. Squeeze your left nipple gently and look for a discharge. (See your Doctor if a discharge appears at any time of the month, regardless of whether it happens during a Breast Self Examination.)
Repeat the above for your right breast, raising your right arm and using your left hand.
- Lie flat on the back with a pillow or folded towel under your left shoulder and your left arm overhead. This position flattens the breast and makes it easier to examine. Repeat for your right breast. Be sure to examine both breasts.
- Place the hands firmly on your hips and bend slightly toward the mirror, pressing your shoulders and elbows forward. Again, look for changes in shape and contour.
See your Doctor if you notice any changes to your breast as outlined in the Description section of this topic. Remember that most breast changes are not caused by cancer, however, it is very important to see your Doctor to make sure.