Monthly breast self-exams are an option for all women beginning by age 20. Women who regularly examine their breasts become more aware of how their breasts normally feel. They are more likely to notice changes -- including masses or lumps -- that could be early signs of cancer. It's best to check about a week after your period, when breasts are not swollen or tender. If you no longer have a period, examine yourself on the same day every month. If you see or feel a change in your breasts, see your doctor immediately. But remember, most of the time breast changes are not cancer.
Using a mirror, inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides, with your hands on your hips, and with your arms raised while flexing your chest muscles.
Look for any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling of skin, or appearance of the nipple. It is normal if your right and left breasts do not match exactly.
Using the pads of your fingers, press firmly on your breast, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Move around your breast in a circular, up-and-down, or wedge pattern. Remember to use the same method every month. Check both breasts.
There are three patterns you can use to examine your breast: the circular, the up-and-down, and the wedge patterns. Use the pattern that is easiest for you, and use the same pattern every month.
Gently squeeze the nipple of each breast and report any discharge to your doctor immediately.
Examine both breasts lying down. To examine the right breast, place a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right hand behind your head. Using the pads of your fingers, press firmly, checking the entire breast and armpit area. Use the same pattern you used while standing. Repeat for your left breast.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.