You should conduct a breast self-exam on the same day once a month. If you menstruate, the best time to do a breast self-exam is two or three 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, such as the first of each month, to do your self-exam.
If you notice a lump, discharge or any other change in your breasts, contact your physician.
1. Stand in front of a mirror. Check each breast for anything unusual. Check the skin for dimpling or scaliness. Look for discharge from the nipples.
2. Watching in the mirror, clasp your hands behind your head and press your hands forward. As you feel your chest muscles contract, check for any change in the shape or contour of your breasts. Make sure your breasts are symmetric.
3. Press your hands on your hips and bend slightly toward the mirror, pulling your shoulders and elbows forward. Check for any change in the shape or contour of your breasts.
4. Gently squeeze each nipple and look for a discharge.
5. Raise one arm. Use the fingers of your other hand to feel for any lump or mass under the skin. Press your fingers in small, overlapping areas the size of a dime. You may want to use lotion or powder to help your fingers move more easily over the skin. Follow a definite pattern: lines, circles or wedges.
|LINES: Start in the underarm area and move your fingers downward little by little until they are below the breast. Move your fingers slightly to the center and slowly move up. Go up and down until you cover the breast.
|CIRCLES: Beginning at the outer edge of the breast, move your fingers slowly in a circle. Move your fingers in smaller and smaller circles, working toward the nipple.
|WEDGES: Starting at the outer edge of the breast, move your fingers toward the nipple and then back out again. Check the whole breast, covering small, wedge-shaped areas.
6. Repeat step 5 while you lie flat on your back, with one arm over your head and a pillow or folded towel under the other. This position flattens the breast and makes it easier to check.
7. Some women repeat step 5 in the shower. Your fingers will move more easily over soapy skin, and you may concentrate on feeling for changes.