The Importance of Breast Self-Exams and How to do Them

Oct 09, 2018

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to bring awareness to the importance of early detection and screenings. Each year, it’s estimated that over 250,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and another 40,500 will lose their fight to this disease. Breast self-exams can become a useful and important screening tool in early diagnosis when performed regularly in combination with physical exams by a doctor, mammogram and ultrasounds.

Breast Self-Exam Tips

Make it Routine

The more you perform your self-exams, the easier they will be for you to tell if something has changed. Try performing an exam once a month to get familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel. It’s recommended you do this a few days after your period when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender.Woman performing breast self-exam

Get to Know Your Breasts

There are several different “areas” of your breasts. The upper and outer area (which is near your underarm) tend to have the most prominent lumps and bumps. Different parts of your breasts have different textures and densities. Getting know what they feel like will help you determine when something feels different.

Start a Journal

Keeping notes about your exams will give you a reference to past self-exams. This may help you determine when you first noticed some irregularities. If started early, you can determine what is “normal” for your breasts.

Don’t Panic

Some women can have naturally lumpy breasts, which is considered having fibrocystic breasts. It is when these lumps become hard and no longer move is when they become alarming. If you are performing an exam and you feel an abnormal lump, contact your doctor right away to schedule an exam.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you are performing your self-exam and notice a change in breast tissue or something stands out that causes concern or persists for several weeks, talk to your doctor. In most cases, only changes that persist for more than one full menstrual cycle or seem to grow or become more prominent will need your doctor’s attention.

Performing Your Breast Self-Exam 

There are currently over 3 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone. Breast cancer does not have to be the reason you lose a mother, grandmother, sister or friend. Early detection is key. Here the steps you can take to perform your breast self-exams. 

Step 1: Click HERE for a visual guide.

Begin by simply looking in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. You are looking for:

  • Change in the size, shape, and color of your breasts
  • Evenly shaped breasts without visible swelling or distortion 

 If you see any of the following changes, they should be brought to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin
  • If your nipple has changed position or has become inverted
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling 

Step 2 and 3: Click HERE for a visual guide.

Next, you want to raise your arms and look for the same characteristics as in step 1. While you are at the mirror, look for any possible signs of fluid coming from one or both of your nipples. This could include a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or even possibly blood. 

Step 4: Click HERE for a visual guide.

For the next, step you will want to be laying down.

  • Using your right hand, feel your left breast and the repeat on the other side using your left hand to feel your right breast
  • Use a firm, smooth touch with the tips of your fingers, use small circular motions, keeping the fingers flat and together

You will do to this until you have covered your entire breast including:

  • Top to bottom, from your collar bone to the top of your abdomen
  • Side to side, from your underarm to your breastbone 

Step 5: Click HERE for a visual guide.

Finally, you will want to feel your breasts while standing. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand motions as in the previous step. Using a firm, smooth touch with the tips of your fingers in small circular motions.

Your Breast Health and Greenville Ob/Gyn 

We believe every women should regularly take measures to care for their body. Greenville Ob/Gyn offers on-site screening through mammography and breast ultrasounds including clinical breast exams for women in their 20s and 30s. After the age of 40, all women should undergo an annual mammogram for a more thorough screening for possible cancer. 

If you need to schedule your yearly mammogram, please contact our office and they will help you schedule your next appointment.  




National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. 

Category: Women's Health

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