What is a breast self-exam?
A breast self-exam is an exam you can do yourself to check for breast cancer. When you do a breast self-exam, you check for lumps, thickening, and dimples in the breast. You also check for lumps in your underarms and discharge from the nipple.Ask your healthcare provider about doing breast self-exams. These exams are not as strongly recommended as they used to be. However, your provider may recommend doing them to help you be more familiar with your body. They could help you notice changes that need to be checked. When breast cancer is found early and treated right away, the chances for cure are much better.Breast self-exams are recommended for women who have had previous breast cancer to check for changes between mammograms.
What is the best time to examine my breasts?
If you are still having periods, examine your breasts at the end of your period, when your breasts usually are not tender or swollen.
How do I do a breast self-exam?
- Lie down and put your left arm under your head. This spreads the breast tissue more evenly on your chest. Use your right hand to examine your left breast. With the flat part of your 3 middle fingers, press gently in small circular motions over the entire area of the breast, checking for any lump, hard knot, or thickening. Use different degrees of pressure—light, medium, and firm—to feel breast tissue at different levels in your breast. Be sure to check the whole breast, from your collarbone above your breast and down until you feel only ribs below your breast.
- After checking your left breast, put your right arm under your head. Use your left hand to examine your right breast in the same way you checked your left breast.
- Look at your breasts while standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips. Look for lumps, new differences in size and shape, and swelling or dimpling of the skin.
- While standing or sitting, slightly raise one arm, then the other, so you can check your underarm area for lumps.
- Squeeze the nipple of each breast gently between your thumb and index finger to check for discharge or fluid from the nipples.
If you want to check to see if you are doing the exam the right way, ask your healthcare provider to show you how to do it.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Contact your provider as soon as possible if a change occurs, such as:
- a lump or swelling
- new wrinkling or dimpling of the skin
- nipple pain or retraction (nipple turning inward)
- redness or scaly rash on the nipple and surrounding skin
- discharge of fluid from the nipple (other than breast milk if you are breast-feeding).
Fortunately, most lumps and other changes are not cancerous, but only your provider can make the diagnosis. @ Published by RelayHealth.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.