What are the steps of a breast self-exam?

1. Visual inspection: With your shirt and bra removed, stand in front of a mirror. Put your arms down by your sides. Look for any changes in breast shape, breast swelling, dimpling in the skin or changes in the nipples. Next, raise your arms high overhead and look for the same things. Finally, put your hands on your hips and press firmly to make your chest muscles flex. Look for the same changes again. Be sure to look at both breasts.

breast self-exam in mirror

breast self-exam

breast self-exam in mirror

breast self-exam

2. Manual inspection while standing up: With your shirt and bra removed, use your right hand to examine your left breast, then vice versa. With the pads of your three middle fingers, press on every part of one breast. Use light pressure, then medium, then firm. Feel for any lumps, thick spots or other changes. A circular pattern may help you make sure you hit every spot. Then, press the tissue under the arm. Be sure to check under the areola and then squeeze the nipple gently to check for discharge. Repeat the steps on the other side of your body.

Breast Self-Exam

Breast Self-Exam

breast self-exam, circular pattern

Breast Self-Exam

3. Manual inspection while lying down: When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads more evenly,. So this is a good position to feel for changes, especially if your breasts are large. Lie down and put a pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, apply the same technique as step 2, using the pads of your fingers to press all parts of the breast tissue and under your arm. Finally, swap the pillow to the other side, and check the other breast and armpit. Be sure to check under the areola and then squeeze the nipple gently to check for discharge.

Breast Self-Exam

breast self-exam, nipple squeeze self-exam

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/09/2021.

References

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