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How to perform a self-examination for breast cancer


Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting women worldwide. Early detection is crucial in improving the chances of successful treatment and survival. One of the most effective ways to catch breast cancer early is through regular self-examinations. This article will guide you on how to perform a self-examination for breast cancer, highlighting its importance, step-by-step instructions, and what to look out for during the process.


Breast cancer awareness has significantly increased over the years, yet many women are still unsure how to perform a self-examination correctly. Knowing how to check your breasts for any unusual changes can make a significant difference in catching potential issues early. This guide aims to empower you with the knowledge and confidence to perform a thorough self-examination, understand what is normal for your breasts, and recognize when something might be wrong.

Why self-examinations are important

Self-examinations are a simple and effective way to detect breast cancer early. While they do not replace regular screenings and mammograms, they serve as an additional tool for monitoring breast health. Regular self-examinations help you become familiar with the normal feel and appearance of your breasts, making it easier to notice any changes that may occur. Early detection can lead to earlier treatment, which is often less aggressive and more effective.

When to perform a self-examination

It is recommended to perform a self-examination once a month. The best time to do this is a few days after your menstrual period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen or tender. For those who have gone through menopause, choose a specific day each month to perform the examination. Consistency is key to becoming familiar with your breasts and noticing any changes.

Steps to perform a self-examination

1. Visual inspection

Start by standing in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Look at your breasts in the mirror and check for any changes in size, shape, or color. Note if there is any visible distortion or swelling. Ensure that there are no visible signs of dimpling, puckering, or changes in the skin texture.

2. Raise your arms

Next, raise your arms and look for the same changes. Pay attention to whether both breasts move in the same way and look symmetrical. This position can sometimes reveal changes that are not noticeable when your arms are down.

3. Check for fluid

While in front of the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples. This fluid could be watery, milky, yellow, or contain blood. Any unexpected discharge should be reported to a healthcare provider immediately.

4. Lying down

Lie down on your back with a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Use your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with your first few finger pads, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion about the size of a quarter to feel the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side—from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. Follow a pattern to ensure you cover the whole breast.

You can start at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast, or move your fingers up and down vertically, as if you were mowing a lawn.

5. Standing or sitting

Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so this step can be done in the shower. Cover your entire breast using the same hand movements described in the lying down section.

What to look for

During your self-examination, you are checking for any new or unusual changes. These changes include lumps, thickening, hardened knots, or any other changes that seem different from the rest of your breast tissue. Be aware of changes in shape, size, or contour of your breasts, or any dimpling, puckering, or redness. Also, note any unusual discharge from the nipples.

What to do if you find a lump

If you find a lump or any other concerning change, do not panic. Many women have lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts that are not cancerous. However, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation. Your doctor may recommend further tests, such as a mammogram or ultrasound, to determine the nature of the lump.

The role of regular screenings

While self-examinations are important, they should not replace regular screenings and mammograms. These medical examinations are crucial for detecting breast cancer early, even before any symptoms appear. Discuss with your healthcare provider the appropriate screening schedule based on your age, family history, and other risk factors.


Performing regular self-examinations for breast cancer is a proactive step in maintaining your breast health. By becoming familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts, you can detect any unusual changes early and seek medical advice promptly. Remember, self-examinations are just one part of a comprehensive approach to breast health, which includes regular screenings and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Empower yourself with knowledge and take control of your health by performing monthly self-examinations. Early detection can make all the difference.


This story was created using AI technology.