Breast Self-Examination

Breast self-examination is an important tool for better breast health. You should know how your breasts normally look and feel. Try to perform a breast self-exam at the time every month. If you notice any changes, report them to your healthcare provider.

In addition to a breast self-exam you should have a clinical breast exam done at least every three years if you are between the ages of 20 – 39 and annually if you are age 40 and older.

Breast Self-Exam Instructions

Begin by standing in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips and your shoulders straight.

  • Firmly press your hands down on your hips to tighten your chest muscles.
  • Look carefully for any changes in the size, shape, color or contour of your breasts.
  • Check for anything unusual - discharge, puckering, dimpling or changes in skin texture such as redness, a rash or swelling.
  • Discharge of fluid from one or both nipples (fluid could be watery, milky, yellow colored or bloody).
  • Raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes.

Lying Down

  • Lie flat on your back and place your right hand behind your head and a pillow under your right shoulder.
  • Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand to make overlapping dime-sized circular motions to feel your right breast.
  • Some women find it easier to move their fingers up and down in a vertical pattern, in rows.
  • Apply 3 different levels of pressure - light, medium and firm - with your finger pads to check the breast tissue. When using firm pressure for the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
  • Use each pressure level to feel for lumps before moving to the next spot.
  • Start by your armpit and move down to just below your breast.
  • Use the same circular motions using an up-and-down pattern to cover the entire breast area.
  • Make sure you examine from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
  • Repeat on your left breast using your right hand.

Sitting or Standing

  • Raise your arm slightly.
  • Use the same circular motions with your finger pads to examine each underarm.
  • Many women find it easier to perform breast self-exam when their skin is wet so they perform it in the shower.

Take a sheet of paper and draw two circles on it, keep it with you when you do your monthly breast self-exam, note/draw on the circles anything you feel that concerns you. Bring the sheets with you when you have your annual visit with your healthcare provider. If you do feel a lump or notice anything abnormal, don’t wait, make an immediate appointment to have the abnormality evaluated.

If you do not have a primary care physician, call our Physician Referral Services at (561) 263-5737.