Self-Breast Examination for Breast Cancer Awareness

What is Self-Breast Examination?

A breast self-exam when you inspect your breasts, to help increase your breast awareness. You use your eyes and hands to determine if there are any changes to the look and feel of your breasts. [1]

Why Is It Done?

A breast self-exam is done to create breast awareness for cancer, it helps individuals understand and know the normal look and feel of your breasts. So if there are any changes or abnormalities that have not been noticed before, it will be easier to bring into ones attention the difference. If and when these changes are noticed, you can report it to your doctor. (You can visit Royal Victoria Medical Centre).

What to Inspect

Check for lumps


Shape of the nipple

Size of the breast

Milky discharge from the nipples (this could be a sign of hormonal imbalance)[2]

When to Perform Examination

Breast self-examination can be done monthly. It can be done at any time but preferably 3-5 days before and after menstruation. During menstrual cycle, hormone levels fluctuate, which causes changes in breast tissue, swelling and breast tenderness. It is often recommended to wait till the end of the menstrual window before taking the self-exam.

How is it done?

Begin with a visual examination of your breasts;

Sit or stand shirtless and braless in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides. To inspect your breasts visually, do the following:

Face forward and look in the mirror for puckering, dimpling, or changes in size, shape or symmetry.

Check for any discoloration, rashes or nipple leakage.

Check to see if your nipples are turned in (inverted).

Lift your breasts to see if ridges along the bottom are symmetrical.

Next, use your hands to examine your breasts;

With your left hand raised up, use the pads of your index and middle fingers of your right hand, place on the nipples and begin to feel the breast in a circular motion till you reach the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. Your goal is to feel different depths of the breast by using different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Use light pressure to feel the tissue closest to the skin, medium pressure to feel a little deeper and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs.

Effective Ways to perform Self Breast Exam

Lying down; Choose a bed or other flat surface to lie down on your back, with your arm raised up behind your head. When lying down, breast tissue spreads out, making it thinner and easier to feel.

In the shower; Stand in the shower with your arm raised up, the water help your fingers glide more smoothly over your skin.

When to contact your doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice:

  • A hard lump or knot near your underarm.
  • Changes in the way your breasts look or feel, including thickening or prominent fullness that is different from the surrounding tissue.
  • Dimples, puckers, bulges or ridges on the skin of your breast. A recent change in a nipple to become pushed in (inverted) instead of sticking out
  • Redness, warmth, swelling or pain Itching, scales, sores or rashes.
  • Bloody nipple discharge.


It is important to note that although the breast self-exam technique is very necessary and a significant number of women report their first sign of breast cancer as a result of breast lump they discovered on their own, it however is not always a reliable way to detect breast cancer.

Additional tests and procedures to investigate breast changes, including a clinical breast exam, mammogram and ultrasound may be recommended by your Doctor.

You can get a clinical breast exam at Royal Victoria Medical Centre. For more information, you can come down to our clinic at Royal Victoria Medical Centre to visit a doctor.




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