How to perform self-examination of breasts?

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Any woman should be able to perform regular self-examinations, especially when considered at risk for developing breast cancer.

It is recommended to perform this examination when you are taking a shower, or in front of the mirror, holding both arms above and behind the head in order to examine the shape and size.

Further on, you may palpate with your hand to check the breasts for possible masses (nodules). This examination is also recommended to be performed particularly following menstruation.

The appropriate method to check for nodules is as follows:

  1. Place four fingers from the left hand below the breast
  2. Using the four fingers of the right hand, you should palpate above the breast (to palpate means to press gently)
  3. Use the tips of your fingers to check for potential nodules
  4. Following this, check the side of the breast, beneath the armpit for enlarged lymph nodes (an ovoid or kidney-shaped organ of the lymphatic system, and of the adaptive immune system, that is widely present throughout the body).

You must also try to observe any sudden changes that were not previously noticed, such as trying to observe whether both breasts are of equal size, if there is a wound, inflammation or a fissure present, if the aureole has become hyper pigmented (dark brown stains around the nipple), retraction of the nipple, lactation or bleeding from the nipple.

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 20 Oct 2017
Medical Author: Dr. med. Diana Hysi