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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Breast Self-Exam

Fall 2012

Breast Self-Exam

Date: September 3, 2012

Your Most Important Monthly Appointment

Self-breast exam

Just about every woman knows that breast self-exams are important. A common challenge, however, is that many women don’t know how to do them. Use this simple guide to make your breast health a priority by conducting a quick 10-minute self-exam every month.

Take a look. Remove your shirt and bra and stand in front of a mirror so that you can see both breasts. Place your hands on your hips and focus on the shape, size, texture and coloration of your breasts, nipples and areolas. Make note of any visible changes in the time since your last self-exam. Then, raise your arms over your head. Do your breasts shift in a similar fashion as you move? Does there appear to be any swelling near your armpits? Document any changes that are apparent month-to-month, and call your doctor right away if anything looks or feels abnormal.

Check each breast, top to bottom and side to side. First, raise your left arm above your head and use your right hand to assess your left breast. Move your fingers from the top of your breast to the bottom, and then left to right, using small circular motions and applying light pressure. Repeat this process on the other side, using the same patterns and motions to check for any lumps, areas of sensitivity or changes in the overall feel of your breasts.

Check your nipples. Place both hands by your sides. With your right hand, use your index and middle fingers to gently squeeze your left nipple, pulling it forward slightly and then releasing it. Does it pull back into the breast, as it should? Repeat this process on the other side, making note of any inconsistencies, pain or fluid discharge.

It’s important to conduct your breast self-exam on the same day of each month. Pick a day and mark your calendar.

Keep a log of your findings and in the event that you detect a concern, it’s best to contact your doctor right away.