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How to perform a breast examination on yourself

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

By Maddy Siriouthay, co-founder

Breast cancer isn’t preventable, but detecting it early is the best way to ensure that you will be able to treat it successfully. You can get an annual mammogram, but we also encourage that you self examine yourself at least once a month, not just during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

So, what does “self examination” actually mean?

Well first, let’s get into what it’s not.

It’s not a diagnosis.

It’s not a replacement for a doctor-administered mammogram.

Most importantly: it’s not hard.

It’s important to examine yourself monthly, so you can monitor and keep track of any irregularities in your breasts. The goal of regular self-examination is early detection. While having nothing to detect is the ideal situation, finding an abnormality in your breast sooner rather than later is the next best thing, because that means that whatever treatment it may require will be more successful.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Breast self-examinations can be broken down into two components: looking and feeling.

LOOK at your breasts.

Position one: Stand in front of a mirror, and let your arms hang on your sides, naturally.

Position two: Now, raise your arms above your head.

What to look for:

  • One breast noticeably and unusually larger than the other

  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin

  • Pulling in on your nipple or any other part of your breast

  • Redness, a rash, or darkening on the breast

  • When you raise your arms, pay extra attention to your nipples, and if they excrete any liquid that is watery, yellowish or even a little bloody.

FEEL your breasts.

Position one: lie down.

Position two: standing or sitting. This can be done in the shower.

How to feel your breasts:

  • Use your right hand to examine your left breast, and your left hand to examine your right breast.

  • Use your first three fingertips and firmly go around your breast in a tight, circular motion.

  • An up-and-down, mowing motion is effective as well

  • Cover your entire breast — collarbone to the top of your abdomen, armpit to cleavage.

What to feel for:

*An important note: breast tissue is naturally lumpy. If the lumpiness you feel is pretty consistent throughout your breasts — DON’T freak out. The chances that your boobs are filled with cancerous lumps are pretty low.

  • A lump that’s like a hard knot, or thickening beneath the skin, that feels abnormal from the rest of your breast tissue.

  • Make note of any areas that are tender or painful to the touch

What happens if I do find an abnormal lump?

Don’t panic. Eight out of ten lumps are not cancerous. An abnormal lump can be caused by a number of things, like: hormone changes or a benign breast condition. However, it should still be checked out by a doctor and properly screened with a mammogram.

Self examination techniques sourced from Susan G. Komen, and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.


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