How to Perform a Self Breast Exam

It is beyond important for all women to learn how to perform a Self Breast Exam!  Next to having a mammogram, it is the single most important thing you can do for yourself to detect breast cancer before it gets out of control. 

You have to be your own advocate – you know your body, so take advantage of that and listen to what it tells you.  If you feel squimish about doing your own breast exam, then have your significant other do it. 

There is no shame in doing the exam or spreading the word.  We must make sure the younger generation of females have all the tools they need to detect and prevent Breast Cancer!

  • Mark the Date on the Calendar:
    • If you are pre-menopausal: Set a regular time to examine your breasts a few days after your period ends, when hormone levels are relatively stable and breasts are less tender.
    • If you are already menopausal (have not had a period for a year or more): Pick a particular day of the month to do the exam, and then repeat your exam on that day each month.
  • Stay relaxed and breathe normally as you do your BSE. Becoming tense will produce some knots that you may mistake for something worrisome.
  • Report any changes or unusual pain to your doctor or nurse practitioner. Keep a log of changes, if that helps you remember.
  • Remember to have an annual clinical exam and a mammogram.

How to Perform a Self Breast Exam

Hands on Hips

In the privacy of your bathroom, strip to the waist and stand before a mirror. You will need to see both breasts at the same time. Stand with your hands on your hips and check the appearance of your breasts. Look at size, shape, and contour. Note changes, if any, in the skin color or texture. Look at the nipples and areolas, to see how healthy they look.

Arms Over Your Head

Still standing in front of the mirror, raise your arms over your head and see if your breasts move in the same way, and note any differences. Look at size, shape, and drape, checking for symmetry. Pay attention to your nipples and areolas, to see if you have any dimples, bumps, or retraction (indentation). Look up toward your armpits and note if there is any swelling where your lymph nodes are (lower armpit area).

Stand and Stroke

Raise your left arm overhead, and use your right-hand fingers to apply gentle pressure to the left breast. Stroke from the top to the bottom of the breast, moving across from the inside of the breast all the way into your armpit area. You can also use a circular motion, being sure to cover the entire breast area. Take note of any changes in texture, color, or size. Switch sides and repeat. This is best done in the shower, as wet skin will have the least resistance to the friction of your fingers.

Check Your Nipples

Still facing the mirror, lower both arms. With the index and middle fingers of your right hand, gently squeeze the left nipple and pull forward. Does the nipple spring back into place? Does it pull back into the breast? Note whether or not any fluid leaks out. Reverse your hands and check the right nipple in the same way.

Recline and Stroke

This is best done in your bedroom, where you can lie down. Place a pillow on the bed so that you can lie with both your head and shoulders on the pillow. Lie down and put your left hand behind your head. Use your right hand to stroke the breast and underarm, as you did in step 4. Take note of any changes in texture, color, or size. Switch sides and repeat.

Since I wanted to make sure the directions were, clear and complete, the above was taken from the following resources:

About.com

Breastcancer.org

To find a full video on how to complete your own Self Breast Exam, please visit Komen.org.

Do you have any good Breast Cancer Resources?

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