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How To Do a Breast Self-Exam

Did you know that most breast lumps are found by women themselves? That makes breast self-exams an important tool in detecting breast cancer. Plus, they only take a few minutes. The key is remembering to do them regularly and doing them in a standard way each time. Read on for more information, and download our infographic below for quick reference.

breast infographic thumbnailFollow these general tips for self-exams:

Be consistent. The best time of the month to do them is seven to 10 days after the start of your period. If you no longer have periods, choose the same day every month to do the exam.

Make yourself a reminder. Mark your calendar, set an appointment in your smart phone, or tie it to an important date that falls every month.

Follow the same steps every time. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor to review your technique. Then, follow the same pattern every time you give yourself a breast exam.

During your breast self-exam, look for changes.

In front of a mirror in good lighting:
  1. Relax as you sit or stand – whichever is most comfortable for you.
  2. With your arms at your sides, look for changes in your breasts – lumps, thickenings, dimples, or changes in skin texture.
  3. Raise your arms above your head, and look for the same signs.
  4. With your hands on your hips, press down and tense your chest muscles. Lean forward slightly so that your breasts aren’t resting on your chest wall. Look for changes.

Next, feel for changes:

  1. Lie down on your back and place your right arm behind your head.
  2. Place a pillow or rolled towel under your right shoulder.
  3. Use the finger pads of your three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions to feel your breast tissue.
  4. Move around the breast in an up-and-down pattern starting under your arm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone.
  5. Use three different levels of pressure – light, medium, and firm – to feel all levels of the breast tissue.
  6. Check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone.
  7. Repeat on your left breast.
  8. Examine each armpit for lumps.

If you notice a lump, call your doctor – and remember that 75% of lumps are benign (non-cancerous).

Call 413-794-8141 to make an appointment with a breast specialist.