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How to Conduct a Breast Self-Exam

  • Lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head.

  • Use the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast.

  • Press firmly enough to know how your breast feels.

  • Move around the breast in a circular, up-and-down, or wedge pattern. Use the same pattern every time you examine your breasts. Check the entire breast area and up under your arms.

  • Repeat the exam on your left breast.

  • Repeat the examination of both breasts while standing. The upright position makes it easier to check the upper and outer part of the breasts.

  • Do the exam every month (after your period, if you have periods).

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend breast self-exams (BSEs) because evidence suggests BSEs do not lower risk for death from breast cancer. The American Cancer Society says BSEs are an option for women 20 and older as a means of familiarizing themselves with their breasts so they can notice changes more easily. Talking with your doctor about the benefits and limitations can help you decide if you should start performing BSEs.

Last Reviewed Date: 08/06/2009
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