You are here

Breast Self-Exam

Breast Care

Breast self-exam

Early detection is your best defense against breast cancer.

In fact, 95 percent of women who find breast cancer in the earliest stages, while it's still confined to the breast, survive.

Three steps to early detection

Breast self-exams are a key element in early detection. By following these three simple steps, you will increase your chances of detecting breast cancer early:

  • Examine your breasts monthly.
  • Have a clinical breast exam by a health care professional every three years from age 20 to 40 and every year after 40.
  • Begin annual mammograms when you turn 40. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your physician may recommend that you get annual mammograms before you turn 40. 

How to perform a breast self-exam

  • Make a date every month. Remember to:
    • Avoid the time just before, during, and after your period, when your breasts may be tender.
    • Use the same date each month.
    • Mark it on your calendar.
  • Take a look. Stand in front of a mirror and:
    • Hold your arms at your sides.
    • Look carefully for changes in the size, shape, and contour of each breast.
    • Look for puckering, dimpling, or changes in skin texture.
    • Gently squeeze both nipples and look for discharge.
    • Raise you hands above your head and look again.
  • Feel for lumps. While standing, raise your right arm and:
    • Press your right breast with your left fingertips, starting at the center and working outward in a clockwise motion.
    • Make a circular motion at each point to feel the tissue.
    • Feel for an unusual lump, hardening, or thickening in the breast tissue.
    • Repeat with your left arm and left breast.
  • Recline and test. Lie down with a towel or pillow under your right shoulder and your right hand behind your head and then:
    • Examine your right breast with your left hand.
    • Press with your fingers flat gently in small circles, starting at the outermost top edge of your breast and spiraling in toward the nipple. Examine every part of the breast.
    • Feel for an unusual lump, hardening, or thickening in the breast tissue.
    • Use the same circular motion to examine your underarm. (This is breast tissue, too.)
    • Repeat with on left breast and underarm.

Learn to perform a MammaCare® self-exam

Ask your Saint Luke's breast care specialist to teach you how to perform a MammaCare® self-exam. It's the most effective self-exam for early detection.

Your medical professional will teach you:

  • To distinguish between normal breast tissue and typical breast tumors
  • A technique to make sure that you feel all depths of your breast tissue, from surface to rib cage
  • A pattern of palpation that covers your entire breast and leaves nothing to chance