To get to know what is normal for your breasts is a good idea. It will prove helpful if you regularly do self-breast examination. In this way, if you notice something unusual, such as a lump, skin change, or discharge, you can consult with your doctor.

What is a self-breast examination?

Checking your breasts for changes such as lumps or thickenings is called self-breast examination. It is done by looking at and feeling both breasts. Tell the cancer specialist if you notice anything unusual.

The process of doing a self-breast examination

Follow these steps if you choose to do a self-breast examination.

In the mirror:

  • In front of a large mirror in a well-lit room, stand undressed from the waist up. Take a look at your breasts. It is ok if they aren’t equal in size or shape. In size, shape or position, look for any changes. You must also look for any breast skin changes, puckering, dimpling, sores or discolouration.
  • Look for any sores, peeling or change in the direction of the nipples by thoroughly checking them.
  • On your hips place your hands and press down firmly to tighten the chest muscles beneath your breasts. Look at the outer part of your breasts by turning from side to side.
  • To tighten your chest muscles, bend forward and then roll your shoulders and elbows forward. This will make your breasts fall forward. In their shape or contour, look for any changes.
  • Behind your head, clasp your hands and press them forward. To inspect the outer positions of your breasts, turn from side to side. Lift your breasts with your hands and look at the border beneath them.
  • For discharge fluid, check your nipples. On the tissue surrounding the nipple place your thumb and forefinger and pull outward toward the end of the nipple. Check whether there is any discharge. On your other breast, repeat this process.

In the shower

  • In the breast, feel for changes. If your hands are slippery with soap and water, it helps. On your hip, place your left hand and feel whether there are any lumps or thickening in your left armpit with your right hand. On the other side, repeat this process.
  • Above and below your collarbone, check both sides for lumps or thickenings.
  • With soapy hands, behind your head raise one arm to spread out the breast tissue. From the other hand, use the flat part of your fingers to press gently into the breast. Moving from bra line to collarbone, follow an up-and-down pattern. Until you have covered the entire breast, continue the pattern. On the other side, repeat this process. Consult your breast cancer doctor if any abnormality is found.

Lying down

  • Place a small pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder after lying down. Behind your head put your right hand. On the upper portion of your right breast place your left hand with fingers together and flat. This becomes easier if you use body lotion.
  • Let’s take your breast as a face on a clock. Move toward 1 o’clock in small circular motions after starting at 12 o’clock. Until you reach 12 o’clock again, continue around the entire circle. During this process, keep your fingers flat and with your breast, keep them in constant contact. Move in one inch toward the nipple after completing this circle and complete another circle round the clock. Until you have felt the entire breast, continue in this pattern. It should also be kept in your mind to feel the upper outer areas that extend into your armpit.
  • Directly on top of your nipple, keep your fingers flat. For any changes, feel beneath the nipple. Check whether the nipple is moving easily by gently pressing it inward.
  • On your other breast, repeat these steps. You must not forget to check the upper, outer area of the breast, nearest to the armpit.