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Home Prevention Self Breast Exam

Self Breast Exam

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Women should begin to perform self breast exams in their early 20's. It is important that women know the normal feel of their own breasts. It is much easier for women to notice any changes by feeling her breasts regularly for changes.  However, it is important to note that self breast exams are not included as a part of preventative screening guidelines.
The best time to perform these exams is when the breast is not tender or swollen.

How to perform an exam

  • The ideal position to perform the exam is lying down.  This allows the breast tissue to spread evenly.  Lie down and place your right arm behind your head.
  • Use the pads of the three middle fingers of your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast.  Use overlapping small circular motions of the finger pads to feel the tissue.
  • There are three different levels of pressure that can be applied.  Start with light pressure to feel the most superficial tissue. Medium pressure helps feel a little deeper, and firm pressure allows you to feel the tissue closest to your ribs.  Use all three levels of pressure to feel the tissue before moving to the next area. If you are not sure how hard to press, ask your physician at your next visit.
  • To ensure you cover the entire breast, start in the same location every time you perform this exam. Move in an up and down pattern.  Make sure you cover the area from your clavicle (collar bone) to the base of your breast until you only feel ribs and from your underarm to your sternum (the breastbone).
  • Place the other arm behind your head, and repeat the exam on your other breast.
  • Next, while standing in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips, roll your shoulders forward to look at your breasts for any changes in size, shape, dimpling, contour, redness, or scaliness of the nipple or skin.
  • Finally, examine each underarm while sitting or standing.  Raise the arm slightly, elevating the arm too high causes this tissue to tighten and makes the area more difficult to examine.



Shikha Jain, MD