How To Do Breast Self-Examination

Why Do  Breast Self-Examination

There are many good reasons for doing breast self-examination each month. It is easy to do. When you get to know how your breasts normally feel, you may be able to feel any changes. With practice, it should take about 15 minutes each month. Early detection of likely cancerous lumps is the key to successful treatment and cure.

Look for Changes

Look for changes in front of a mirror. View the front and each side in three positions. Relax arms at your sides. Look for changes in shape, colour, or any puckering, dimpling, skin changes or nipple discharge.


Raise hands above your head. Check again for puckering, dimpling and skin changes.

Place hands on hips, press down, and bend forward. Check nipple direction and general appearance.

Palpation Technique

Use the pads of the middle three fingers of each hand to examine the breast on the opposite side. Do not use fingertips. Keep fingers together.


Move fingers in small circles, using the three levels of pressure in each spot. Keep fingers, knuckles, and wrists straight. “Walk and slide” finger pads along so no breast tissue is missed.

Feel for Changes Lying Down

Pressure : Lumps can occur at any depth. Use three levels of pressure to examine each spot thoroughly.

Light : Use very light pressure on the first circle. The pressure should be just enough to move the skin without disturbing the tissue underneath. Pressing too hard at first could cause the lump to move out of the way.


Medium : On the second circle, use medium pressure to feel for changes below the surface up to the mid-level of the breast tissue.

Deep : On the third circle, check for lumps deep in the breast tissue.

Pattern :  Use a vertical strip pattern to check the entire breast area. Imagine mowing a lawn with straight, vertical, overlapping rows. When you reach the end of each row, move over about one finger width and start the next row.

Once you start, do not lift fingers from the breast area. Be sure to examine the nipple with the same palpation technique you use to examine the rest of the breast tissue. The area to be examined includes sides, top and bottom of the breast. Sides include the line from the middle of the armpit (axilla), the area beyond the breast fullness, down to the bottom bra line and over to the middle of the breast bone.


The top starts after a two finger gap above the collar bone. Two finger-widths below the bra line indicate the bottom of the breast.

Check the Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes drain the breast tissue. The lymph nodes that drain the breast tissue are located in three spots :

  • Above your collar bone—
  • Below your collar bone
  • In the armpit you will want to know if any nodes are enlarged, movable or unmovable

Position for Examination


Position 1 :  Spread the breast tissue evenly over the rib cage. Turn on your side with the knee bent. Lean the shoulder back towards the outside (away from your hip) and put your hand on your forehead. Place a pillow under your lower back to make it more comfortable. You are in the right position when your nipple seems to “float” at the top of the mound of your breast tissue.


Position 2 :  When the search pattern reaches the nipple, hold fingers in place on the nipple and roll back into a position. Lie flat on your back. The arm on the side being examined should now be extended directly away from the body (at a right angle).

When to Do Breast Self-Examination?

The best time to do breast self-examination is right after your periods, when the breasts are not tender or swollen. If you do not have regular periods or sometimes skip a month, choose a day and do it the same time every month.

Remember the ABCs of Breast Health

  • A Screening mammogram
  • Breast self-examination
  • Clinical breast examination

Breast self-examination can save your life. Most breast lumps are found by women themselves or their partner. Most lumps in the breast are not cancerous. Any lump or change should be checked by a doctor.

Early detection is your best protection!

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