Watch a Video on Self Breast Exam
Self breast exam comprises one portion of the triad of early
detection of breast abnormalities, the other two being professional
breast exams and screening mammography. This is appropriate, as most
breast abnormalities are first discovered by the woman herself.
Once a month, just after completing a menstrual flow, a woman should
examine her breasts. This can be done in the shower, but at least part
of the exam should be done while standing in front of a mirror.
She inspect her breasts for:
- Skin changes
- Visible bumps
- Nipple crusting
When raising her arms up, both breasts should rise evenly on the
While raising her arms, she should watch closely for any skin
dimpling or nipple retraction.
With her arm raised, she should feel for lumps with the opposite
Most breast tissue is somewhat nodular. She is feeling for a "marble
in a bag of rice."
She should move her hand in small circles while compressing the
Then she should move to another area and perform the same small
Many people find it easiest to move in a clockwise fashion to avoid
missing any areas of the breast.
The same circular motion should be used to exam the armpit and the
"tail" of the breast that extends up into the armpit.
In the armpit, she is feeling for any breast lumps or lymph nodes.
Enlarged lymph nodes are about the size of a pencil eraser, but longer
She should try to express nipple discharge by stripping the ducts
towards the nipple.
Normally, there will be one or two drops of clear, milky or
about this in the
Clinical Preventive Services
Department of Health and Human Services