How Do I Do a Proper Breast Self-Exam?

Question: How do I do a proper breast self-exam?

Answer: There are several different methods of doing a breast self-exam. What is important is that you find the method that you are most comfortable with. It's important to do your breast exam once a month, usually about 7-10 days after the start of your period. Now, if you're no longer menstruating, just pick a day of the month and do your breast exam that same day every month -- for instance, the first of the month or maybe the 15th of the month.

Now, in doing your breast self-exam, what you're going to want to do, is you're going to examine your left breast with your right hand, and your right breast with your left hand. You're going to use these three fingers, your three middle fingers, and you're going to place them on your chest, and you're going to make a small circle about the size of a dime. You're going to make that circle three separate times. You're going to make it using the light pressure, and medium pressure, and then a deep pressure.

Now, the area that you're going to examine is much larger than you probably would have expected, because your breast tissue runs from your underarm area down to your bra-line, over to your sternum, or your breast bone, and up to your clavicle, or your collar bone. So, it really is a very large area that you are examining. You may choose to use a pattern of up and down; we call that vertical strips. Or, you may choose a circular pattern, or a wedge pattern -- whatever you are most comfortable with.

And, again, you are detecting changes in your breast exam. You're not going to identify if something is a cyst or a cancer, but by doing your exam every month, you are going to detect changes from your previous month's exam, and alert your healthcare provider with any of those changes.

Next: How Do I Do a Breast Self-Exam After a Mastectomy?


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