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Breast Self-Examination

While Lying Down

  • To examine the right breast, place your right arm over your head (this distributes breast tissue evenly). Place a folded towel or pillow beneath the shoulder.
  • With your left hand, use the flat part of your fingers to press gently but firmly in small circular motions around entire breast and inward toward the nipple.
  • Many women feel a firm ridge of tissue underneath their breasts. This is usually normal and commonly feels the same on both sides. Some women have naturally lumpy breasts and should record the areas of thickening.
  • Examine the area between the breast and armpit, as well as the armpit itself.
  • Depress your nipple. Normally the area behind the nipple feels hollow and soft. This area should feel similar in both breasts.
Repeat this procedure on your left breast, using your right hand.

In the Tub or Shower

  • Continue to use the same circular motions. The soap and water will allow your hands to glide more smoothly over your skin. Check for lumps or unusual thickenings.
  • With the right arm raised, use the flat pads of your fingers from your left hand and reach up high and deep. Feel the area between the breast and the armpit, as well as the armpit itself. Repeat on opposite side.
  • Check the area above and below your collarbone for thickness, lumps and swelling.

In Front of a Mirror

In good light, turn side to side in these positions:
  • Relax arms at sides.
  • Place hands on hips and press down on hip bones.
  • Clasp hands behind head with elbows pulled back.
  • Place hands on waist and bend forward so breasts hang.

In each position, look for:
  • Nipple change (inverted, flattened, crusty appearance)
  • Nipple discharge
  • Puckering or dimpling
  • Change in breast shape, contour or size
  • Scaling, redness, rash, sores or unusual texture
  • Anything that is unusual or causes you concern

For the Mastectomy Patient
Continue monthly self-exams for the remaining breast.
Look in the mirror for redness, scaliness or rash. Pay particular attention to the scar line. Feel between each rib and over the breast bone for thickness, lumps and swelling. Remember to feel under both arms and above and below collarbones.