Doing self-breast exams will allow you to get to know your breasts and help you detect any changes early.
Doing regular self-breast exams is something that many women forget but should be a regular part of a woman’s self-care routine. A self-breast exam is a check that a woman can do at home by themselves to find any new changes or problems with their breast tissue. Not all healthcare professionals believe that breast self-exams are useful but others believe they are extremely important to the early diagnosis and treatment of breast health complications. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if breast self-exams are right for you.
When Do You Do a Self-Breast Exam?
It is best to do a self-breast exam at the same time every month for consistency reasons. If you are menstruating on a monthly basis, it is recommended that the best time to do the exam is three to five days after your period starts. If you have already gone through menopause, choose to do your exam on a certain day of the month and keep consistent with that day of the month every month.
How Do You Do a Self-Breast Exam?
Many women find it easiest to do a self-breast exam either lying down or in the shower. MedlinePlus National Library of Medicine recommends completing your self-exam as follows:
- Place your right hand behind your head
- Using the middle fingers of your left hand, gently yet firmly press down using small motions to examine the entire right breast
- In a sitting or standing position, feel the armpit area because the breast tissue goes to that area of the body
- Gently squeeze the nipple to check for any discharge
- Make sure that you feel all of the breast tissue
- Repeat steps 1 through 5 for the other breast using the opposite hand
- Next, stand in front of a mirror to look at the breasts
- Look at your breasts for changes in skin texture such as dimpling, puckering, indentations, or skin that looks like an orange peel
- Note the shape and outline of the breasts
- Check to see if your nipple turns inward
- Repeat steps 7 through 9 with your arms raised above your head
What Do I Do If My Self-Breast Exam Is Abnormal?
The main point of doing regular self-breast exams is to learn the look and feel of your breasts and to detect any changes early. Every woman’s breasts are different. If you do find an abnormality in your breasts that was not there before, you should reach out to your GYN healthcare provider and make an appointment. Not all breast abnormalities are cancerous but it is best to have your healthcare provider do an examination and order any testing necessary. Early detection of changes in breast tissue can help save lives.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Breast self-exam: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved January 19, 2023