How to do a Breast Self-Exam

(The following is from our friends at White Plains Hospital Center in New York)

Once a Month, Every Month:

Check for any lumps, hard knots, swelling, dimpling or thickening. Also, look for any abnormal changes in size, shape, color or nipple discharge. The best time of the month to do the exam is seven to ten days after the start of your menstrual cycle or for post-menopausal women, the same day each month.

Before A Mirror

  • First relax, sitting or standing, whichever is comfortable.
  • With your arms at your sides, look for changes in your breasts, such as lumps, thickenings, dimples or changes in the skin texture or appearance.
  • Next, raise your arms above or behind your head, again looking for the same changes.
  • Now, with your hands on your hips, press down and tense your chest muscles. This will make any changes more prominent.

In The Shower

  • Raise your right arm behind your head.
  • Using your 3 middle fingers held flat together of your left hand, roll and press the right breast area firmly against the chest wall.
  • Repeat this process to check your left breast with your right hand.

Lying Down

  • Lie down on your back and place your right arm behind your head. This allows the breast tissue to spread more evenly over the chest wall, making it much easier to feel all of the breast tissue.
  • Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand to fell for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue.
  • Use 3 different levels of pressure to feel all of the breast tissue. Light to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium to feel a little deeper; and firm to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs.
  • 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.
  • Repeat the exam on your left breast with your right hand.

Trends and attitudes about the best pattern for BSE vary. The best method is the one you feel comfortable with and will use every month to check all of your breast tissue. Ask your healthcare practitioner for advice if felling uncertain about your technique.

Click here for instructions in Spanish.