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5 Simple Steps to Performing a Breast Self-Exam

August 15, 2018
All adult women, aged 20 and older, should perform breast self-exams every month. And for those who aren’t sure how to do it, we’re here to help. This infographic makes it easier to understand what you should do, look for and feel for. If you do find an issue, don't panic — but do schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Infographic Text

Five Simple Steps to Performing a Complete, Reliable Breast Self-Exam

About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime and 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump. That’s why regular clinical exams are crucial, but performing breast self-exams at least once a month is just as important.

Not sure how to give yourself a breast self-exam?

Don’t worry — you’re not alone. Many women aren’t familiar with how, when and how often to do it. But good news … it’s easier than you think and this guide shows you exactly what to do.

1): Look at your breasts in the mirror.

Visually examine your breasts with your shoulders straight and your hands on your hips. If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor's attention:

  • Unusual size, shape or color
  • Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin
  • Redness, soreness, rash, swelling or scaling on the skin of the breast, areola or nipple. (Some women may detect ridges or pitting resembling the skin of an orange.)
2): Raise your arms and look for the same changes.
3): Check your nipples for signs of fluid.

Look for signs of:

  • Watery discharge
  • Milky discharge (for women who are breastfeeding, this should not cause alarm)
  • Yellow fluid
  • Blood
4): Feel your breasts while lying down.
  • Examine your breast with the opposite hand. Use your finger pads together and move in a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.
  • Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
  • Be sure to use both light and firm pressure to examine all breast tissue. Start light for tissue just under the skin. When you've reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
5): Feel your breasts while standing or sitting in the shower.

Consider repeating the exam as described in Step 4 while in the shower. Many women find it easier to detect abnormalities in their breasts when their skin is wet and slippery.

What to do if you detect potential symptoms

Don’t be alarmed. Do tell your doctor. Most of these symptoms are not due to cancer, but it’s essential to have them examined.

Allowing your doctor to assess any symptoms you find is the key to early detection of breast cancer.

More info
1 https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics
2 http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam