Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How to Perform a Self Exam on Your Breasts

More and more women are surviving breast cancer as science advances and more is known about the disease. In every case, early detection is key to survival and recovery, and the best way to ensure early detection is by regularly examining your breasts for any lumps or irregularities, which could signal early warnings that you may be at risk for breast cancer or that a tumor is developing in your breast.


To keep yourself healthy and ensure that you catch any signs of cancer early enough to prevent the advancement of the disease, noted physician Dr. Olga Bachilo recommends that you examine your breasts regularly using the following guidelines for breast self-exam.

How to perform regular Breast Self-Exam

As soon as your breasts develop, you should start becoming familiar with how they look normally and at different times during your menstrual cycle. By the time you’re in your 20’s you should be accustomed to performing regular breast self-exams and note any irregularities in your breasts if you encounter them.

Getting to know the normal look and feel of your own breasts will help you to spot any changes or concerns that should be reported your doctor.  Show your doctor the technique you are using to examining your own breasts so that they may ensure that you are doing it correctly.

There are three types of breast self-exam:

Circular:  Starting at the outside edge of your breast, slowly run your fingers over the surface of your breast using gentle pressure and a slow circular motion.  Use a spiral pattern to examine the entire breast, ending at the nipple. 

Vertical: Starting at the area where the breast begins just under the arms, move your fingers in a vertical motion from the edge of the breast downward, and from the underside of the breast upward, applying gentle pressure to the entire breast. Continue using these vertical strokes to examine the entire breast.  

Wedge: Starting at the outer edge of your breast, use your fingers to apply gentle pressure while moving them from the edge towards the nipple and back to the edge again, examining the entire breast using this movement.  

Notes on performing an effective breast self-exam

Stand in front of a mirror and look at your breasts. Observe any changes in normal appearance, such as changes in shape, position, and swelling or inflammation. 

Remember to use the padded area of your three middle fingers to examine your breast.  

Be sure to check the area underneath your arms as well as the upper chest in addition to the breasts themselves.

Use different levels of gentle pressure to examine your breasts so that you can feel abnormalities at the surface level as well as deeper inside the breast tissue.

When should I get a Clinical Breast Exam (CBE)? 

If you are an adult woman over 20, you should be getting a Clinical Breast Exam (CBE), performed by a doctor or licensed health professional, as part of your yearly medical checkup.  If you are 40 or older, you should also complement the CBE with regular yearly mammograms. 

When should I get a Mammogram?

Women beginning at age 40 should get a mammogram yearly.  If you notice any irregularities during your breast exam at any age, you should also consult a doctor who may recommend a mammogram.  A mammogram is an x-ray image of the breast tissue that detects lumps and abnormalities in the breast that you may not catch during a regular self-exam.   

The World Health Organization recommends mammograms as the most effective method to screen for breast cancer.  Mammograms have helped to save thousands of lives of women ages 40-70 with breast cancer.  

What if I get breast cancer?

If you should indeed discover that you have breast cancer, you will require immediate treatment with a qualified oncologist who can provide several options for cancer treatment. If you end up having a mastectomy or lumpectomy as part of your treatment, you have several options for reconstructing your breast tissue at Glamour Plastic Surgery and Med Spa.  Dr. Bachilo will work with your oncology team to make the process as seamless as possible for you.  Click here to visit our blog and learn more about breast reconstruction after mastectomy.


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