How to do a Breast Self-Examination

Feb 2018 Breast

Contributed by: SMG Women's Health Editorial Team

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Why do a breast self-examination?

A breast self-exam can be an important way for women to detect breast cancer early, especially for those who are at higher risk. It can be easily conducted at home.

When is the best time?

A breast self-exam can be conducted just after your period ends as the breasts will not be tender and less engorged, hence they are easier to examine. For post-menopausal patients, anytime is fine.

Before examining your breasts:

Check for any anomalies in the following positions while standing in front of the mirror:

  1. With arms hanging by the side
  2. With both arms raised and placed behind your head
  3. With both arms placed on your waist and flex the breast muscles

Look out for any abnormal skin changes, rashes over the nipple, overt lumps, dimpling or puckering of the skin, orange peel appearances of the skin, or abnormal nipple discharge.

Things to note:

  1. Take note of the areas that need to be covered so that you do not miss any spots.
  2. Use a palpation method when examining your breasts. This involves using the flat pad of your 3 middle fingers and press firmly into the tissue whilst making small circular motions. As you move along the breast, ensure these circles overlap to cover all areas.

How to examine your breasts:

Breast Checking
Image: BreastCancer.org

To examine your right side, begin by placing a folded towel or pillow under your right shoulder. Extend your right elbow outwards and place your right hand under your breast. Using your left hand, feel for changes in your right breast. Then repeat the procedure for the right breast with your left hand.

Divide the breast into 2 circles: 1 about an inch from the nipple and the other 2 inches from the nipple. For women with larger breasts, a third circle should be created another inch away from the 2nd circle.

Using the palpation method, examine your breast tissue starting from the outer circle. While palpating, apply medium to firm pressure until you can feel the hardness of your ribs below as much as possible. This ensures that the entire thickness of breast tissue in that area is examined. Move on to the inner circle and repeat the palpation process.

How to examine the nipples:Don’t forget the armpits:

Your breast tissue extends to your armpits as well. Starting from the outer area of your breast near the underarm, continue palpating the outer armpit in a circular manner and finally the inner hollow of your armpit as well.

You can also use this palpation method to feel the hollowed areas above your collar bones (clavicles).

For more information and a diagram on breast self-examination, visit http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam

For more information on other gynaecological concerns, make an appointment to arrange a consultation with our O&G specialists.

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