How to Conduct a Breast Self-Exam

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer that afflicts American women and the second leading cause of death from cancer for women (after lung cancer). About 1 in every 11 women eventually develops breast cancer. However, when breast cancer is found early and treated immediately, the chances for cure are much improved. For this reason, all women over the age of 18 should be sure to perform monthly self-exams.

A breast self-exam checks for lumps, thickening, dimples in the breast, and discharge from the nipple. Examine your breasts once a month at the end of your period, when your breasts usually aren't tender or swollen. To conduct a breast self exam, follow this simple, 3-step process, referring to the pictures below for more infomation:

Step 1
Step 2
Step 3

Step 1
Examine your breasts in the shower or bath. With your fingers flat, move gently over the entire area of each breast, checking for any lump, hard knob, or thickening.

Step 2
Examine your breasts while standing in front of a mirror. Look at them first with your hands at your sides, then with your hands raised over your head, then with your hands pressed firmly on your hips so that your chest muscles are flexed. Look for lumps, new differences in size and shape, and swelling or dimpling of the skin. It is usually normal for your right and left breasts not to match exactly.
 
Step 3
Examine your breasts while lying down. Put a small pillow or rolled up towel under your shoulder on your left side and put your left arm under your head. With your right hand examine your left breast by pressing gently in small circular motions around an imaginary clock face. Begin at 12 o'clock (top of your breast), then move to 10 o'clock, and around the circle back to 12. Then move in an inch, toward the nipple, keep circling until you reach the nipple. Squeeze the nipple gently between thumb and index finger. Any discharge should be reported to your health care provider as soon as possible. Repeat with your right breast. Feel for any lumps or thickening which cannot be felt in the same area in the other breast.

If you find a lump, dimple, or discharge during your breast self-exam, see your provider as soon as possible. Don't be frightened. Most lumps are not cancerous, but only a health care provider can make the diagnosis. Call the Sexual Health Clinic at 245-5738 to schedule an appointment.