For women of all ages, the breast self-exam is a useful tool that is easily learned.

Something to remember is that you know more about how your breasts should look and feel than anyone else so please pay attention to any changes – if you do find anything different or worrying, go and see your doctor as soon as you can. This will allow for quick action if needs be, or peace of mind in the case of ‘normal’ breast changes that may be concerning you.

There are two important ways to check your breasts.

The first is by looking.

A mirror should be used to check the breasts for pulls, dents, odd colouring, or lumps. The best positions for inspecting are leaning forward, arms on hips tightly, or standing upright with both arms over your head.

Both breasts should look the same, especially around the nipple.

The second way to check the breasts is by feeling.

There are two ways to do this part of the examination.

  • One method uses water or oil on the skin to help fingers glide over the skin more easily. The shower can be a good place for this kind of exam.
  • The second way is to use a thin T-shirt or sheet over the breasts. Feel the breast tissue for any areas that feel different from the rest of the breast. Sometimes a difference will be a ball or lump. Yet other times it will be a thickened band or a deep, hard area that does not move like the rest of the breast.
  • Check the breast in two or three positions, such as lying down, standing up, and even leaning forward.
  • Use the palm surface of the fingers, not the tips, to move the breast.
  • Divide the exam into parts. Examine one part from the outside of the breast into the nipple, and then from the inside to the outer edge. The breast tail goes into the armpit, so the exam needs to include that area.
  • Remember the nipple is important too. There is less breast tissue right under the nipple, so any lump there is a concern. A gentle exam done towards your nipple is usually enough to show if there is a discharge. Any blood from the nipple needs to be evaluated by a doctor.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email