Self Breast Exam
M. Punukollu M.D
is the most common cancer among women. The best time to treat breast cancer is
when it is detected at its earliest stages.
Currently the causes for breast
cancer are not known and the best protection is to detect it as early as possible.
can I detect breast cancer?
Regular mammograms. Annual
mammograms begin at age 40 years.
See your doctor for regular breast
exams. At least every three years from age 20 to 39 and every year beginning
at age 40.
Practice monthly self-breast exam.
is important to get an idea of what your breasts feel like normally as this will
enable you to be more aware of changes if they develop. You are the best authority
on your own breasts. Doing self breast exam every month helps you become that
- It's a good idea to ask you health care provider to
learn about doing self-breast exam and explain to you what you are feeling in
the breast tissue so you are aware of what's normal. That way you can learn more
about the difference in feel between normal breast tissue and lumps that may be
- If you are still menstruating, it is best to wait at least
two to three days after your period ends to do the self-breast exam when your
breasts are less likely to be swollen and tender.
do I perform a breast exam?
- Stand in front of a mirror with your upper body unclothed and pressing both
hands behind your head.
- Look for changes in the shape and size of your
- Check for dimples of the skin or "pulling in" of the
- Check for scaling or a rash on your beasts and nipples.
place your hands on your hips and press firmly inward, tightening your chest muscles,
while looking at your breasts for any change in their usual appearance. Perform
leaning slightly forward and again while standing upright.
should I feel my breasts?
In fact, there are three different methods
that can be used, all equally effective. It is important that you choose the method
that you are most comfortable with and use the same method each month.
- Use the hand opposite the breast you are examining, beginning
at the outermost top of your breast.
- Press the flat portions of the second,
third and fourth fingertips into your breast.
- Move in small circles slowly
around your breast, working toward the nipple.
- Press gently to feel tissues
under the skin and more firmly to feel deep tissues.
- Cover all areas of
- Repeat for the opposite breast.
- Imagine your breast is divided into sections,
like spokes dividing a wheel.
- Begin at the outermost top of the breast.
the flat portions of the fingertips into your left breast, moving first toward
the nipple, then away from the nipple.
- When you complete that section,
slide your fingers slightly to the next area and repeat the process, gradually
moving around your entire breast.
- Repeat for your opposite breast.
- Begin at the innermost portion of the breast, near the
- With the flat portions of the fingertips, move down your breast,
pressing firmly and gently.
- Slide your fingers slightly and move up your
breast, then down, and so forth until the entire breast area has been examined.
for the opposite breast.
Masses in the lower
part of the breast may be more easily felt lying down.
- To examine
your left breast, lie flat on your back with a pillow or folded towel under your
- Raise your left arm over your head.
- Use the
flat portions of the second, third and fourth fingertips of your right hand to
examine your left breast with one of the above methods.
- Press gently to
feel tissues under the skin and then more firmly for deep tissues.
for the right breast.
Masses in the upper
part of the breast are easier to detect while standing upright.
your left hand behind your head, and with the flat portions of the second, third
and fourth fingertips of the right hand, examine your entire left breast by one
of the methods described.
- Repeat for your right breast.
- Gently squeeze your left nipple between your right index
finger and thumb and look for any discharge.
- Repeat for right nipple.
- Check the area between the upper outer breast
and your armpit, as well as the armpit itself.
- Check the area just above
your collarbones for enlarged lymph nodes.
should I see my health care provider?
- If you detect a lump
or change in the breast.
- Nipple discharge.
- "Pulling in"
of the nipple.
- Change in texture, color or dimpling of the skin.
of all lumps found are normal breast tissue, benign (non-cancerous) masses. However,
if you notice a change in your breast tissue, don't wait. See your health care
provider immediately, even if you have had a negative mammogram in the past.
you would like more information regarding breast cancer, or if you are concerned
about breast cancer and would like to talk to a survivor, call the American Cancer
Society toll free at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the web site at www.cancer.org.
Breast Health page
WATCH THIS slide show: called Stirrups and Stories - personal stories and thoughts about women's gyn exams
women's health in women's hands.org
have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone."
Cisneros, The House on Mango Street (1989)
Feminist Women's Health Center