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Why Do Breast Self-Exams?
A breast self-exam is done to detect changes that could lead to breast cancer. To learn what is normal for your breasts and to find any problems, you should do a breast self-exam once a month. It is one of the best things you can do for your health. Finding and treating breast cancer early can save your life.
If breast cancer is found early, most women can be treated with success. That is why routine breast self-exams, mammography, and checkups by your doctor are vital
By doing routine breast self-exams and having routine mammograms and checkups, you can help detect breast problems early.
By doing a monthly breast self-exam, you learn how your breasts feel. This helps you detect any changes or signs of a problem.
All women should do the exam once a month. This includes women who
have gone through menopause
have breast implants
Any changes or lumps should be discussed with your doctor right away.
Breast Self Exam
The self-exam should always be done in good light. Stand or sit in front of a mirror. Place arms at your sides. Look for dimpling, puckering, or redness of the breast skin, discharge from the nipples, or changes in breast size or shape. Look for the same signs with your hands pressed tightly on your hips and then with your arms raised high.
Lie flat on your back. Place a folded towel or a pillow under your left shoulder. Place your left hand under or over your head. You also can feel for changes when you are standing.
With your right hand, keeping the fingers flat and together, gently feel your left breast without pressing too hard. Use one of the three methods shown here. Then lower your right arm and do the exam on the other breast.
Choose one of these methods
Begin at the top of your breast and move your fingers slowly around the outside in a large circle. When you return to the top, move your hand a little closer to the nipple and make a smaller circle. Do this in smaller and smaller circles until you have examined all of the breast tissue.
Begin in the underarm area. Slowly move your fingers down until they are below your breast. Move your fingers closer toward your nipple and go slowly back up, using the same motion. Use this up-and-down pattern all the way across your breast.
Begin at the outside edge of your breast. Slowly work your way in toward the nipple, doing one wedge-shaped section at a time. Do this until the entire breast area has been examined.
With any pattern, be sure to examine the nipples also.
Gently squeeze the nipple and check for any discharge.
Examine the upper chest area and below the armpits—these places also have breast tissue.
Call your doctor if you notice any lumps or changes in your breasts.
Signs of a Problem
If you notice any of these symptoms during your breast self-exam, call your doctor:
Nipple retraction (nipple turns in)
Redness of nipple or breast skin
Scaly nipple or breast skin
Any lump should be checked right away. Tests may be needed. In some cases, a biopsy may be done to look at the tissue.
Do the breast self-exam once a month. If you detect any signs of a problem, talk to your doctor. By doing routine breast self-exams and having routine mammograms and checkups, you can help detect breast problems early—when they most likely can be treated with success.