Breast Self-Examination: How To Do It And What To Look For?

Monthly breast exams are the best way to keep yourself safe and healthy, and they are crucial in getting an early warning of breast cancer or other health problems. A breast exam isn’t something that needs to be done by a doctor; you can do it on your own. It’s basically a step-by-step procedure a woman does to examine her breasts in order to assess whether there is something abnormal that needs immediate medical attention. Not all lumps or spots are created equal – some are benign, others are malignant, but in both cases, the earlier you detect something, the better. Self-examination is critical to maintaining overall health, and while it doesn’t supplant the necessity of getting a mammogram or meeting with your doctor, it’s still a simple yet critical intervention you can do on your own. Here are a few tips for you to consider.


One of the first questions that comes to mind for most people is how much time to set aside for a self-exam. The good news is that it doesn’t take a ton of time, so you only need to clear out a few minutes from your daily schedule. You can hit two birds with one stone and do a self-exam when you’re taking a shower, lying in bed getting ready for bedtime, or even as you get dressed for the day. 


There are a few steps to take to begin the self-exam. As explained at, you can start out by putting your arms next to you, doing a visual test by looking for alterations in breast shape, swelling, or dimpling. Then, raise your arms overhead and repeat the process, on the lookout for similar issues. g.

You can also do a quick manual exam as you sit down or stand up. With your top removed, use your right hand to check your left breast, then repeat with the right. Using three fingers, press on different parts of the breast, using light pressure, then medium, then firm. Feel for any lumps or thick spots. A circular pattern will ensure that you check every spot thoroughly. You can check under the areola and then squeeze the nipple gently, repeating the steps on other parts of your breast.

The same manual exam can be done while lying down. In fact, it may even be better, since the breast tissue is easier to navigate in this position, allowing you to perform a more accurate assessment. It’s an especially good position for you to feel any changes and is helpful for women with larger breasts. In fact, your physician is bound to do the same thing during your annual wellness check, since this exam tends to be more accurate, and can help with early detection. 

When to Call a Doctor

The crucial element of all this is being aware of what to be on the lookout for, and when to call a doctor. If you find a lump or notice other worrisome changes, be sure to stay calm. Most findings during self-exams do not result in a diagnosis of breast cancer, so it’s not a foregone conclusion. However, it is important to speak with your doctor immediately if you notice differences in the look of your breast or nipple. Also, if there is a sudden puckering of the skin, you should check in with your doctor.

Of course, if there is a lump or a hard spot anywhere, or a thickness in the breast tissue, then you should be on alert. Nipple discharge, or having the nipple area pull inward, is another telling sign. In addition, if you are experiencing any kind of pain that refuses to go away, or notice swelling, or even a rash forming that seems to have come up apropos of nothing, then make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.


Self-exams are an important intervention, and worth doing on your own whenever you can. However, there is a tendency among people to overestimate the benefits of self-examination, thinking that they can be done in lieu of a visit to the doctor. At the end of the day, getting a mammogram at least once a year is a great way of supplementing your cancer screenings. Since they are more precise, they should be done in addition to self-exams.

Make sure to discuss different options with your doctor, and take into account the extent to which these exams are helpful to you. Part of the work that goes into taking care of your health is ensuring that you meet regularly with a medical professional while doing what preventative care you can on your own.

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