How to perform a breast self-exam

  |   Age:

How to perform a self-breast exam

The proper technique for a breast self-exam isn't difficult to learn, and being familiar with your breasts can help you notice new changes. However, it's important to know that self-exams aren't a replacement for breast cancer screenings - only a licensed and trained healthcare provider can perform those - and also that they haven't been proven to help with early detection.

Because of this, most medical organizations don't recommend them as part of the cancer screening process, but some organizations, including the National Breast Cancer Foundation, encourage them when combined with regular medical care and mammograms.

You should continue to follow the screening recommendations of your healthcare provider, but if you'd like to know how to perform a self-exam, there are a few steps to follow.

Visual exam

  1. Use a mirror to look at your breasts with your arms at your hips and your shoulders straight. Are your breasts their usual size, shape, and color? Make sure there's no distortion, swelling, dimpling, puckering, or bulging. In addition, look out for redness, soreness, rash, or a nipple that has changed position or inverted.
  2. Raise your arms in front of the mirror and look for any changes, keeping in mind all of the same signs listed above. Make sure there isn't fluid coming out of either of your nipples. If you're pregnant or nursing, you may see some normal leakage, but keep an eye out for anything abnormal.

Physical exam

  1. Lie down so your breast tissue will spread across your chest, and use your right hand to feel your left breast. Keep your fingers flat and together, and make a small circular motion to feel your entire breast. Go top to bottom and side to side. You can try going out from the nipple circularly or in rows vertically or horizontally. Find a method that works best for you and allows you to check the entire breast. When you're done, repeat this action by using your left hand to feel your right breast.
  2. Stand or sit up (some women find this easiest or most convenient in the shower), and feel both of your breasts repeating the above method.   

If you see any of the signs mentioned, feel something abnormal, or see any changes in your breasts, inform your healthcare provider. Additionally, the American Cancer Society's guidelines state that women 45-54 should get mammograms every year, but you should check in with your healthcare provider about your unique family history and risk for breast cancer.

Non-cancerous lumps are very common, so don't panic if you feel something strange in a breast self-exam. See your healthcare provider as soon as you can, and they'll be able to guide you through how to move forward.


More articles at this age

Switching your child to real food

Whether it's a rite of passage or just giving up on feeding your baby a separate dinner from the rest of the family, the switch from baby food to regular-people food is a big deal - and can be a bit of an adjustment.

Fostering baby's self-esteem

There are plenty of things in the world that could test your baby's self-esteem as she grows older, but if she builds up a good sense of self now, while she's little, it could help her weather any challenges she meets later.

Is it normal for babies to fall when learning how to walk?

Every baby who's still working out how to walk has taken a tumble or two with no harm done - it's just part of the process. What's trickier is figuring out which tumbles to worry about, and which to let her walk off.

How long should I use a stroller for?

There's walking and then there's WALKING - it's one thing to cheer your baby on through her first steps, and another to put away the stroller and have her walk to the store beside you. But where do you draw the line between the two?

What if baby still has a flat head?

your baby's body is changing every day - including her skull, which is still soft enough to gradually change shape. There are several reasons for a flat spot on a baby's head, most of which are harmless, but a few may require a check-in with a pediatrician.

Fun and games: Rolling a ball

Rolling a ball back and forth and "having a ball!" might not have been the same thing for you before your baby came along, but she is great at having fun with simple games.

Welcome to lil'bee!

It looks like you're using an ad blocker. That's okay. Who doesn't? But without advertising-income, we can't keep making this site awesome. Please disable your ad blocker and refresh this page.

Thanks for understanding 🙏