“A breast self-exam is a screening method that you can do at home. A breast self-exam can help detect tumors, cysts, and other anomalies in the breasts. It isn’t as effective as mammograms in detecting breast cancer, but it can help you recognize breast anomalies.”

You should keep a journal of your self-examinations. This will help you record any changes you notice in your breasts.

If you feel an abnormality in your breast, tell your healthcare professional.

Nowadays, some organizations consider a self-exam less effective than regular mammograms in detecting cancer. For example, the American Cancer Society has deemed breast self-exams optional.

However, in a 2022 study, researchers found that among 426 breast masses, 96% of cancers and 81% of ultrasound findings have resulted from patient-identified lumps.

Breast self-exams can still be useful in tracking breast health. They can help you figure out your breasts. It can help you determine if what you are seeing is normal or abnormal.

Visual exam

Follow these steps to visually examine your breast:

  1. Start by standing topless in front of a mirror.
  2. Visually inspect your breasts for the following:
    • Changes in shape or size.
    • dimpling
    • inverted nipples
    • puckering.
    • The ridges are asymmetrical.
  3. You can check for these signs by touching them with your hands. Then, with your arms over your head, and again when lifting one breast.

Physical exam

After looking at each breast, follow the signs to examine it with your hands.

  1. Use the pads of your fingers, not the tips, to inspect your breasts while lying down and showering. The soap and water in the shower will help your fingers glide over your skin.
  2. Using varying pressure and taking your time, massage your fingers over your breasts in a spiral pattern.
  3. You can get to the top of your breast by going to the collarbone, the center of your breastbone, and the sides of your body. Put one arm over your head and the other over your breast.
  4. To check for discharge, gently squeeze your nipples.

There’s no medical risk involved in a breast self-exam. Finding a lump in your breast can be alarming, but a majority of breast lumps aren’t malignant (cancerous). They’re typically caused by other benign conditions.

Breast self-exams, clinical breast exams, and mammograms are usually reserved for people with a higher risk of breast cancer.

There are answers to additional questions about breast exams here.

What does a breast lump feel like?

If there is a lump on your breast, it will usually feel harder than other parts of your breast. However, some people with dense or cystic breasts may experience lumps. Breast consistency can also fluctuate around menstrual cycles.

If you find a lump on your breast, it is best to speak with a doctor to rule out breast cancer.

When should breast examinations be performed?

“The best time to do a breast self-exam is after your monthly menstrual cycle ends. It is best to perform the exam when your breasts are in their normal state. The first day of each month is the best day for females who don’t menstruate to take the exam.”

Why does my breast hurt when I press it?

There are different causes for pain in the breast when your press, and these are not necessarily cancer. They include hormonal changes, breast cysts, and injuries to the breast. Speak with your doctor to determine the cause of your breast pain.

“Don’t be afraid if you find a lump. Most breast abnormality turn out to be benign or noncancerous.”

Besides cancer, breast lumps can be caused by:

“This doesn’t mean that you should ignore a lump. If you find a lump, you should have it professionally examined by a healthcare professional.”

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