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How do I give myself a breast exam?

Some women use breast self-exams (BSEs) to get to know their breasts. The best time for a BSE is one week after your period, when your breasts are not swollen or tender. Lumps are also sometimes found during day-to-day activities such as showering or foreplay. Most lumps are not cancerous. But report anything unusual to your health care provider as soon as possible.

If you would like to learn how to do a BSE, your health care provider can teach you, or you can follow these steps:

  1. Lie back and place your right hand behind your head. Examine every part of your breast with the fingers of the left hand held flat. Gently press in small circles. Move from spot to spot on your breast using a straight up-and-down pattern. Use three levels of pressure in each spot — light, for the breast tissue near the surface, medium, for the tissue underneath, and firm, for the tissue that is closest to the ribs. Feel for lumps, bumps, or thickening.
  2. Now do the other breast. Be sure to follow a consistent pattern and do not miss any part of the breast. Now switch positions and feel the left breast with your right hand, making sure to examine all parts of the breast using the up-and-down pattern.
  3. Stand in front of a mirror. Place your hands on your hips. Inspect each breast for changes in size, shape, and form. Do it again with your arms raised above your head..
  4. Rest your arm on a firm surface like the top of a bookshelf. Examine the underarm. Feel for lumps, bumps, or thickening in the same way. Now do the other underarm.

Tags: self breast exam