You are the leading expert on what is normal for you, which is why breast self exams are so important. Get to know your breast by doing a breast self exam once per month at the same time each month and report any changes to your doctor.
Steps for a Breast Self-Exam
1. Lie down with a pillow under your left shoulder. Place your left arm behind your head.
2. Use the finger pads of your right hand to feel for lumps in your left breast. Move the finger pads in little circles to feel for any lumps.
3. Use varying levels of pressure to feel the breast tissue:
- Light pressure to feel tissue beneath the skin
- Medium pressure to feel deeper tissue
- Firm pressure to feel tissue near the chest and ribs
- A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal
4. Move around the breast using an up and down pattern. Check the whole breast area—from the bottom of the breast up to the collar bone, as well as from the chest bone to the underarm.
5. Repeat the exam on your right breast, using the finger pads of your left hand.
6. Stand in front of a mirror so that you can clearly see both of your breasts. Press your hands firmly on your hips. Look for any changes in the size, shape, or contour of the breasts. See if the skin (including the nipple) has any puckering, dimpling, scaliness, or redness.
7. Lastly, check each underarm while you are sitting or standing. Raise your arm a little so that you can feel the underarm area. (Note: If you raise your arm too high, it will be harder to feel this area.)
Remember that breast changes are not always due to cancer. But, if you do notice lumps or other abnormalities, call your doctor right away.