How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
Complete this three step exam every month just after the end of your period. If you don't have a period, simply perform the exam on the same day each month. If you find anything unusual, see your health care provider.
1. IN FRONT OF A MIRROR
While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, dimpling, pulling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin. (The pressing down on the hips position contracts the chest wall muscles and enhances any breast changes.)
Continue to look for changes with your arms down at your sides and then with your arms raised up over your head with your palms pressed together. Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it difficult to examine.
2. LYING DOWN
Lie down and place your right arm behind your head. When lying down the breast tissue spreads evenly over the chest wall and it is as thin as possible, making it much easier to feel all the breast tissue.
Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue and apply three different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal. If you’re not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse. Use each pressure level to feel the breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.
Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone (sternum or breastbone). Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).
Repeat on your left breast.
3. IN THE SHOWER
If you prefer, repeat this exam in the shower with your skin soapy to allow your fingers to move smoothly over your breast.
REMEMBER: REPORT ANY CHANGES TO YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER.
- Courtesy of the American Cancer Society
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