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How to Perform a Self Breast Exam

Being proactive and aware of our body and health is so important, especially as women. While heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, breast cancer comes in at a close second. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to pass along some tips to help educate you on breast self exams. Click here to

  • By the age of 20, women should be giving themselves breast exams at least once a month in addition to seeing their gynecologists on a regular basis
  • The best time to perform your exam is when your breasts are not swollen or tender, most recommended a week after your period
  • Women who are breast feeding, have implants or who are pregnant should be more diligent about their exams as lumps can be harder to detect
  • You must administer your exam while lying down so your breast tissue can spread out evenly on your chest
  • Whichever breast you examine first, place that arm above your head and use your fingertips from your opposite hand to massage and feel for lumps in a circular motion
  • Start your exam by your armpit and continue down to your rib cage, or until you no longer feel breast tissue, in an up and down pattern (chin to belly button).
  • Repeat on the other side
  • After both breasts are completed, sit up and check for lumps in your armpit with your arm slightly lifted. If the skin is too tight, it will be more difficult to feel for abnormalities
  • Many women have lumpy breasts to begin with; so don't be too alarmed if you feel some bumps along the way. Some lumps could be calcium deposits, cysts, or Fibrocystic breast condition, which are typically non malignant, perfectly normal lumps
    • If you feel anything abnormal, consult your doctor as soon as you can. Many women get lumps that are non cancer threatening all the time, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Getting to know your breasts, the shape, the feel and their look is the best way to detect if they have changed in any way which to alert you of any red flags. It's easy to forget your self exam, so if you need a monthly reminder, iVillage will send you an e-mail reminder along with expert answers to common questions, helpful tips and a complete guide to doing a self-exam.


Join The Conversation
-Maryan- -Maryan- 9 years
Thanks for the tips!
graylen graylen 9 years
I thought this was great advice from my old GYN... It was silly, but definitely cleared up what I was checking for! She said that when you are checking your breasts, they should feel like lumpy mashed potatoes. If you find peas (of whatever size) in your lumpy mashed potatoes, then you need to get it checked out. Like I said, silly, but clears it up a bit.
veronicaraye veronicaraye 9 years
great advice. thanks for the post!
i-am-elle i-am-elle 9 years
Thanks for the life-saving tips! Everyone woman should know & do this.
tati33 tati33 9 years
BlairBear BlairBear 9 years
I do mine diligently, I've found a lump in my armpit once and had to have it scanned. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing but ever since, it seems like I can't keep my hands off my boobies :P
beautiful1nes beautiful1nes 9 years
Yeah these tips were great I always wanted to know how to check myself, thanks.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Thanks for the great tips! It's important for every women to read this!
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