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Health Services


Why You Should Do A Breast Self-Exam

One of the many good reasons for doing a monthly breast self-exam is that it is easy to do. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. When you get to know how your breasts normally feel, you will quickly be able to feel any change. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.

Remember: A breast self-exam could save your breast - and your life. Most breast lumps are found by women themselves, but in fact, most lumps in the breast are not cancer. Be safe, and be sure.


When To Do A Breast Self-Exam

The best time to do breast self-exam is right after your period, when breasts are not tender or swollen. If you do not have regular periods or sometimes skip a month, do it on the same day every month.


How To Do A Breast Self-Exam

Horizontal breast self-exam1. Lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right arm behind your head.

Hand2. Use the finger pads (the top third of each finger) of your three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps or thickening.

3. Press firmly so you know how your breast feels. If you're not sure how hard to press, ask your health care provider, or try to copy the way your health care provider uses the finger pads during a breast exam. Learn what your breast feels like most of the time. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal.

Breast exam methods4. Move around the breast in one set way. You can choose either the circle (A), the up and down (B), or the wedge (C). Do it the same way every time - it'll help you make sure that you've gone over the entire breast area, and to remember how your breast feels.

5. Now examine your left breast using your right hand finger pads.

Vertical breast self-exam6. Repeat the examination of both breasts while standing, with one arm behind your head. The upright position makes it easier to check the upper and outer part of the breasts (toward your armpit.) You can do the standing part of the breast self-exam while you're in the shower. In fact, some breast changes can be felt more easily when your skin is wet and soapy.

You should also check your breasts for any dimpling of the skin, changes in the nipple, redness, or swelling while standing in front of a mirror. Do this right after your breast self-exam each month.

If you find any changes, see your doctor right away.


American Cancer Society Guidelines For The Early Detection Of Breast Cancer

Age 20 - 39:

  • Have a clinical breast examination (CBE) by a doctor or nurse every three years.
  • Do a breast self-examination every month.

Age 40 and over:

  • Have a mammogram every year.
  • Have an annual clinical breast examination by a doctor or nurse (CBE should be done close to the time of the mammogram).
  • Do a breast self-examination every month.