How will a breast self-examination feel?

Breast self-examination should be painless when done according to instructions. It can be a helpful tool for getting to know the way your breasts feel and look normally so that you can identify changes in your breasts more easily. Doctors recommended waiting until after the first few days of your menstrual period to do your breast self-examination, as breasts may feel more tender, swollen or lumpy in the days before your period arrives.
Begin the exam by lying down with your right hand behind your head, which allows the breast tissue to spread over the chest so it is as thin as possible and easiest to feel all the tissue.
  •  Using the finger pads of the three middle fingers of your left hand, use overlapping dime-size circular movements to feel the breast tissue.
  •  Alternate the pressure you apply from light to moderate to firm to be able to feel all the tissue from the skin surface down to the area closest to the chest wall and ribs.
  •  Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone. Check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone.
  •  Repeat these steps to examine the left breast.
Next, stand up in front of a mirror. With your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape or contour, or dimpling, redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin. Slightly raise each arm to examine the underarm. Gently squeeze the nipple of each breast to check for discharge.
Although there is evidence that breast self-exam is not an effective screening tool, examining your breasts monthly allows you to get to know what's normal for your breasts and identify any changes more quickly. If you do notice any lumps, dimpling, unusual redness or inflammation or nipple discharge, call your doctor right away.

Continue Learning about Women's Health

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.