Breast self-exam, or regularly examining your breasts by yourself, can be an important way to find breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be small and can be treated successfully. American Cancer Society stopped recommending breast self-exam as a screening tool for women with an average risk of breast cancer due to its controversial impact on survival, however, breast self-examination can be a useful and important screening tool, especially when combined with other screening methods like mammography. Breast self-exam is a convenient and no-cost screening stategy especially important for females where accessibility of mammography is difficult .
How to do a breast self-exam: Five steps for checking for breast cancer at home
Step 1: Examine Your Breasts in a Mirror With Hands on Hips
Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Here’s what you should look for:
- Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
- Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swellingStep 2:
Raise Arms and Examine Your Breasts Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
Look for Signs of Breast Fluid While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
Step 4:Feel for Breast Lumps While Lying Down
- Next, check for breast lumps or abnormalities by feeling your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast, and then your left hand to feel your right breast.
- Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together.
- Press down with your fingers and move them in a circular motion that’s about the size of a quarter (or an inch around).
- Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. F
- ollow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast.
- You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn.
- Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.Step 5: Feel Your Breasts for Lumps While Standing or Sitting
- Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting.
- Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower.
- Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4.