Breast Self-Exam

Breast Self-Exam

Improve Your Odds

The American Cancer Society estimates that one out of nine American women will develop breast cancer at some point during their lives. With early detection, the majority of these cancers can be cured. In fact, many women who develop breast cancer go on to lead long, healthy lives after treatment. The single most important factor in beating breast cancer is early detection.

The three steps to early detection are:

• Breast self-exams every month beginning at age 18.

• Clinical breast exams by a health care professional every three years between the ages of 18 and 39 and every year from age 40.

• Screening mammograms every year from age 40.

Until we know more about preventing breast cancer, detection at an early stage gives women the best chance of survival and the most treatment options.

Breast Self-exam

You are the best person to pick up on unusual changes in your breast. That’s why it’s important to perform breast self-exams (BSE) monthly. The goal of BSE is to become as familiar with your breasts as you are with your face or hands. Look for changes in the size and shape of either breast or any changes in skin color or texture. Differences in the size and shape of your breasts can be a normal variation and often are related to your menstrual cycle. Learn what is normal for you so that you can detect changes in your breasts.

Important changes to look for during a breast self-exam are nipple discharge, scaliness of the skin, puckering or dimpling of the skin or retraction of the nipple. Report any abnormalities to your health care provider immediately.

How To Perform Breast Self-exam

1. Lie down and put a pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right arm behind your head.

2. Use the finger pads of your three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps or thickening in your right breast. (Your finger pads are the top third of each finger.) Move around the breast in a circular motion, covering every inch of your breast tissue. Move up and down the breast vertically at least 10 times.

3. Press firmly enough to know how your breast feels. Learn what your breast feels like most of the time. A firm ridge in the lower curve of the breast is normal.

4. Now use the same method to examine your left breast using the finger pads of your right hand.

5. Stand in front of a mirror. Place your hands on your sides, on your hips and then lift them over your head. Look for changes in the size, shape, color or texture of your breasts. Keep in mind that it is normal for one breast to be slightly larger.

Tips for Successful Breast Self-exam

1. The best time to perform BSE is right after your period, when your breasts are not tender or swollen. If you do not have regular periods, do BSE on the same day every month.

2. You might want to do BSE while you’re in the shower. Your soapy hands will glide over the wet skin, making it easier to check how your breasts feel.

3. Most breast cancers occur in the upper outer area of the breast. Pay close attention to this area when performing BSE.

Please remember that the material presented here is for informational purposes only. If you have specific questions about a medical imaging procedure, contact your physician or the radiology department of the institution where your test will be performed.


For any questions or concerns

Contact the Radiology and Medical Imaging department at 434-924-9400.