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Breast Self-Examination

How It Is Done continued...

Use three different levels of pressure to feel all of your breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue close to the skin surface. Medium pressure is used to feel a little deeper, and firm pressure is used to feel your tissue close to your breastbone and ribs. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal. Use each pressure level to feel your breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.

Check your entire breast using a lengthwise strip pattern. Feel all of the tissue from the collarbone to the bra line and from the armpit to the breastbone. Start in the armpit and work down to the bottom of the bra line. Move one finger-width toward the middle and work up to the collarbone. Repeat until you have covered the entire breast. Repeat this procedure for your left breast. See a picture of BSE using an up-and-down pattern .

You also can examine your breasts using a spiral pattern. Again, use three different levels of pressure to examine all your breast tissue. Avoid lifting your fingers away from the skin as you feel for lumps, unusual thicknesses, or changes of any kind. See a picture of BSE using a spiral pattern .

Most breast tissue has some lumps or thick tissue. When in doubt about a particular lump, check your other breast. If you find the same kind of lump in the same area on the other breast, both breasts are probably normal. Pay attention to any lump that feels much harder than the rest of your breast.

If you find anything that concerns you, schedule a visit with your doctor. The important thing is to learn what is normal for you and to report any changes to your doctor. Remember that most changes you find are not breast cancer but should be checked. These changes may include:

  • Any new lump. It may or may not be painful to touch.
  • Unusual thick areas.
  • Sticky or bloody discharge from your nipples.
  • Any changes in the skin of your breasts or nipples, such as puckering or dimpling.
  • An unusual increase in the size of one breast.
  • One breast unusually lower than the other.

In addition to examining your breasts while lying down, you may also check them while in the shower. Soapy fingers slide easily across the breast and may increase your chances of detecting a change. While standing in a shower, place one arm over your head and lightly soap your breast on that side. Then, using the flat surface of your fingers-not the fingertips-gently move your hand over your breast (in the strip pattern described above), feeling carefully for any lumps or thickened areas.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 03, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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