Tips for Performing a Breast Self-Examination
Breast self-exams can help you understand the normal appearance and feel of your breasts so you can notice any changes. Regular self-exams make it easier to find the early signs of breast cancer and get medical attention. Learn how to perform a breast exam at home and what to look for during these examinations.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
You can perform a breast exam using three different approaches. Since your breasts change shape as they move, checking them in different positions allows you to examine every part.
In the Mirror
Follow these steps to perform a mirror exam:
- Undress from the waist up and look in a large mirror.
- Check your nipples for changes in direction, peeling, sores or discharge.
- Raise your arms and clasp your palms together to flex your chest muscles, then look again for changes.
- Bend forward and roll your shoulders and elbows forward, then check for changes in breast shape or contour.
Many women prefer to perform a self-examination in the shower because the water makes it easier to complete. A standing up exam includes these steps:
- Check your breasts for changes in texture and shape. Remember to also examine your underarm area for thickening or lumps.
- Look for thickening or lumps below and above your collarbone.
- Raise one arm behind your head, then use the other arm to press gently into the raised breast. Move your hand up from underneath your breast to the collarbone to examine the whole breast. Repeat with reverse directions for the other breast.
A lying down breast self-exam lets you feel parts of your breast that can become difficult to examine in other positions. Follow these steps during a lying down exam:
- Lie down with a folded towel or small pillow under the shoulder on the same side as the breast you want to examine.
- Place your hand behind your head on the same side as the breast.
- Use the hand on the opposite side to examine your entire breast in a circular motion. Make sure to feel beneath your nipple for any changes.
- Repeat this process for your other breast.
What Does a Breast Lump Feel Like?
Cancerous breast lumps have different sizes, shapes and densities. If you feel a lump in your breast, you should always ask your doctor to examine it. Breast lumps related to cancer can have any or all of these traits:
- Grows over time
- Feels like a hard mass
- Has irregular edges
- Doesn’t cause pain
- Appears in your breast’s upper outer area
- Doesn’t move when you push it
When to Talk to Your Doctor
During your self-exam, you could find other signs of breast cancer. In addition to finding a lump, you should let your doctor know if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Unusual swelling
- Red, scaly or irritated skin
- A nipple that turns inward
- Thickened skin
- Nipple discharge
Schedule a Mammogram
When it’s time to schedule your first mammogram, contact a qualified imaging facility like Envision Imaging and the Women’s Imaging Center at Colorado Springs Imaging. We offer high-quality imaging services, along with convenient, flexible scheduling and compassionate care to help put you at ease. Our caring staff will ensure you have a comfortable, pleasant experience at every appointment.
Browse our locations to request your next diagnostic imaging appointment. Our world-class facilities, compassionate care and accurate results ensure a pleasant and reliable experience.