How to Do a Self-Exam for Breast Cancer
October 23, 2023
The earlier you catch signs and symptoms of cancer, the easier it is to treat. That’s especially true for breast cancer—the most common type of cancer in the United States.
This rule applies to men as well as women. Although most people diagnosed with breast cancer are women, it does affect men—and the sooner it’s treated, the better.
Your doctor will examine your breasts as part of your regular checkups. However, you should also check your breasts yourself at least once a month.
Why are self-exams important?
Self-exams are important because they can help you to find unusual bumps, dimples or painful areas early. These changes can be so minor that you don’t notice them.
The more you practice self-exams, the more you will learn what is normal for your own body.
How often should I check my breasts?
Perform your self-exam once a month. Your breasts might be more sensitive before or during your menstrual cycle, so schedule your self-exam for the time of the month that is most comfortable.
If you find something unusual—don’t panic. Changes in breasts can occur for many reasons, not just cancer.
The important thing is to tell your doctor so you can discuss the next steps.
How to do a breast self-exam
In the shower
- Use your fingertips to feel your right breast and underarm area.
- Press gently, a bit harder, and then harder.
- Check the whole area. Don’t rush!
- Repeat on the left side of your body.
In front of a mirror
- Stand or sit in front of a mirror with good lighting.
- Look at your breasts in the mirror.
- Check for changes in shape, dimples, swelling or skin texture, temperature or color.
- Flex your chest muscles and continue the self-exam.
- Place a pillow under your shoulder.
- Use your hand and fingertips to feel your breast and armpit area.
- Use gentle, medium and firm pressure. Don’t rush!
- Squeeze your nipple and check for any discharge.
- Repeat with the other side of your body.
Have questions? Not sure you are doing the self-exam correctly?
Be sure to talk to your doctor. Remember: There is no such thing as a bad question, except the one you don’t ask.
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Want to earn $20 in rewards points?
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