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How to Do a Self Breast Exam

Performing a monthly self breast exam is key to familiarizing yourself with your breasts and being able to promptly recognize changes that could indicate cancer. While they should not be considered a replacement for annual mammograms, self breast exams can help you detect abnormalities in the months between preventive care visits.

Self breast exams are simple – here’s what to do:

  1. Stand up straight, hands on hips, and look at your breasts in the mirror. Carefully check for unusual swelling, puckering, dimpling, redness or bulges in and around your breasts. Also look for any changes in the nipples, including discharge or nipple inversion.
  2. Raise your arms and look for these same breast abnormalities.
  3. Lay down on your bed or couch and use your right hand to feel for lumps in your left breast, and your left hand to feel for lumps in your right breast. Breast tissue is often naturally lumpy, so familiarize yourself with what’s normal for your breasts. Use a firm touch with the pads of your pointer, middle and ring fingers and be sure to cover the whole breast, from the collar bone to the ribs.
  4. Finally, feel for lumps while standing up. Many women choose to perform this step in the shower.

Self breast exam tips

It’s best to perform your monthly self breast exam a few days after your period ends and breast swelling and tenderness has reduced. A lump associated with breast cancer is often painless, hard and immobile, although this may not always be the case depending on its location in the breast and cellular makeup. If you find a lump, don’t panic – most breast lumps are not cancerous. Still, be sure to consult a medical professional if you notice a breast lump or any visible abnormalities in your breasts.

Moffitt Cancer Center’s breast clinic provides breast cancer screening, diagnostics, treatment and supportive care, all in one location. To visit Moffitt with or without a referral, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.