Breast Self-Exam


Breast Self-Exam

Adult females (ages 20 and older) should perform breast self-exams (BSE) at least once per month. Regularly performing breast exams can help you become familiar with the look and feel of your breasts so that you can more easily notice and report any changes to your healthcare provider. This is important because it can lead to the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.1

However, large-scale studies, including one that sampled almost 400,000 females from Russia and China, have found that performing breast self-exams did not reduce the yearly number of deaths from breast cancer.5 Whether or not you perform breast self-exams, it is important to receive clinical breast exams from your healthcare provider during annual gynecological visits.6 Females over 40 years of age should also get a mammogram every two years.2 A mammogram is an x-ray designed to detect cancer in the breast tissue of females who show no visible signs or symptoms of breast cancer.3 Females at high risk for breast cancer are advised to get a mammogram and MRI every year. Females are deemed “high risk” if they have a family history of breast cancer and have a 20% or greater risk of getting breast cancer based on this family history.6

You should review your BSE technique with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are performing the exam correctly.1



It is best to examine your breasts when they are not tender or swollen.

1.     Remove any clothing above the waist. Look at your breasts in the mirror with your arms on your hips. This position helps to push out the breast tissue and exggerate any irregularities.

Look for any changes in breast size, shape, and color, including the following:

  •             Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  •             Change in nipple position
  •             Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
  •             Watery, milky, or bloody discharge from the nipples

2. Repeat this procedure in front of the mirror with your arms raised.

3. Next, feel your breasts while lying down on your back. This position spreads the breast tissue thinly and evenly along the chest wall so that it is easier to feel any irregularities.

-Place your right arm behind your head and use your left hand to examine the right breast.

  • Use the pads of your three middle fingers to feel the breast tissue. Keep your fingers together, and move your finger pads in dime-sized circular motions with a firm touch.
  • Examine the entire from the ribs up to the collarbone. You may find it helpful to move in a linear pattern to ensure that you check the entire breast.
  • Repeat. Place your left hand behind your head, and use the finger pads of your right hand to feel the left breast for any lumps or abnormalities.1, 4



Females with breast implants as well as females who are pregnant or breast-feeding should also perform breast self-exams.1 If you find a lump or any abnormalities on your breast, be sure to contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible. Most of the time, these changes are not linked to breast cancer, but early detection increases the chances that it can be successfully controlled or cured.



1. "Breast Awareness and Self-exam." American Cancer Society. N.p., 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <

2. "Breast Exam." Planned Parenthood. N.p., 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <

3. "Mammograms." National Cancer Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2014. <>.

4. "The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam." N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2014. <>.

5. Gotzsche, Kosters. "Regular Self-examination or Clinical Examination for Early Detection of Breast Cancer." Cochrane Summaries, 8 Oct. 2008. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <

6. Doheny, Kathleen. "New View in Debate on Breast Self-Exams." WebMD, 22 Apr. 2009. Web. 30 Sept. 2014. <


Last Updated 29 September 2014.