A Step-by-Step Guide to Breast Self-Exams

Many gynecology experts recommend that all women perform breast self-exams once per month. If you aren’t yet in an age range in which mammography is recommended, your breast self-exams and your gynecologist’s professional breast exams may facilitate the early detection of potential problems. However, even after you start having mammograms, you should continue to do self-exams. It’s important to note that many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not feel a lump. Regular self-exams let you become familiar with how your breasts generally look and feel, which can also support early detection.

In the Shower

A thorough exam involves checking yourself in the shower, in front of a mirror, and while lying down. Use a circular pattern to move the pads of your fingers around the entire area of each breast. Move from the outside to the inside, and also check your underarm area. Feel for any lumps, knots, or thickened areas.

In Front of the Mirror

Stand in front of a large mirror with your hands on your hips and your shoulders straight. Visually inspect your breasts and underarm areas for the following:

  • Nipple inversion
  • Nipple discharge (blood, or fluid that is yellowish, milky, or watery)
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Rash
  • Dimpling or “orange peel” appearance of the skin
  • Asymmetry
  • Changes in shape or size

After you’ve examined yourself with your hands on your hips, raise your arms above your head. Check yourself for the same changes in appearance.

While Lying on Your Bed

Lie down with your upper body unclothed. Put your right arm above your head, resting it on the bed. Use your left hand to examine your right breast. Then, put your left arm over your head, and use your right hand to examine your left breast. Remember to use small, circular motions. Some women prefer to check up and down their breasts, in vertical rows, while others prefer to feel around the perimeter of each breast, and move inward.

A gynecologist at Women’s Healthcare Associates will be happy to help you learn the steps of breast self-exams during your well-woman exam. Give us a call today at (713) 654-8128. Our Ob/Gyn clinic in Houston has a convenient location downtown, on the St. Joseph Parkway.

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