While breast screenings can detect cancer before you can feel a lump or experience any symptoms, it is important that self breast examination is also performed every month.
Become familiar with how your breasts usually look and feel so that you may notice any changes from what is normal for you.
Changes to look for
- a new lump in your breast or armpit
- thickening or swelling of part of your breast
- irritation or dimpling of your breast skin
- redness or flaky skin in your nipple area or your breast
- inversion of your nipple or pain in your nipple area
- nipple discharge other than breast milk
- any change in the size or the shape of your breast
- pain in any area of your breast
When to perform your self breast exam
Th best time to do a self breast examination is a few days after your period ends. when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen.
If you no longer menstruate, pick a certain day and set a phone reminder each month, to remind yourself to do a self breast examination.
How to perform your self breast exam
Start with standing up
Stand undressed from the waist up in front of a large mirror in a well-lit room. Look at your breasts. With your arms relaxed by your sides, look for any changes in size, shape, or position, or any breast skin changes. Look for any puckering, dimpling, sores, or discoloration.
Check your nipples and look for any sores, peeling, or change in their direction.
Place your hands on your hips and press down firmly to tighten the chest muscles beneath your breasts. Turn from side to side so you can look at the outer part of your breasts.
Bend forward toward the mirror and roll your shoulders and elbows forward to tighten your chest muscles. Your breasts will fall forward. Look for any changes in their shape or contour.
Clasp your hands behind your head and press your hands forward. Again, turn from side to side to inspect your breasts' outer portions. Remember to look at the border underneath them. You may need to lift your breasts with your hand to see it.
Check your nipples for discharge fluid. Place your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and pull outward toward the end of the nipple. Look for any discharge. Repeat on your other breast.
Then lie down
Lie down and place a small pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Put your right hand behind your head. Place your left hand on the upper portion of your right breast with fingers together and flat. Body lotion or moisturiser may help to make this easier.
Think of your breast as a face on a clock. Start at 12 o'clock and move toward 1 o'clock in small circular motions. Continue around the entire circle until you reach 12 o'clock again. Keep your fingers flat and in constant contact with your breast. When the circle is complete, move in 1 inch toward the nipple and complete another circle around the clock. Continue in this pattern until you've felt the entire breast. Make sure to feel the upper outer areas that extend into your armpit.
Place your fingers flat and directly on top of your nipple. Feel beneath the nipple for any changes. Gently press your nipple inward. It should move easily.
Repeat these steps on your other breast. Don’t forget to check the upper, outer area of the breast, nearest to the armpit.
If you find a change in your breast that is unusual for you, see your doctor without delay.
If you’re still concerned about a persistent symptom, get a second opinion.
Trust your instincts. You know your body best.