How To Do A Self-Breast Exam

Regular self-breast exams are something every woman should feel comfortable and confident doing as a part of a healthy routine. Follow our guide to discover the two-step method that will help you carry out a thorough self-breast exam. Of course, home breast checks do not replace a professional diagnosis, so if you’re at all concerned, we recommend you consult your doctor or gynecologist as soon as you spot anything out of the ordinary.
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The mirror self-breast check

Start your self-breast check by stripping down to a bare upper body. Choose a quiet and warm spot with good lighting where you can stand or sit in front of a mirror. Look at your breasts in the mirror and check:

  • Your breasts are their usual size, shape and color
  • Your armpit area, raise your arms above your head to check thoroughly here
  • If there are any noticeable visual changes, like swellings or distortions you should consult with your doctor. (While some soreness can be caused by PMS, look out for redness, dimpling, nipple changes, rashes or bulging of the skin.)

Don’t worry if there are differences in shape and size between your breasts. Our bodies are not completely symmetrical and its common for our breasts to be different to each other. What’s important is that you look for changes to your breasts and any developing symptoms in these home breast exams. This means it’s important we carry out monthly breast exams so we know what’s different.

Self-breast exam steps: check for breast lumps with your fingertips

Hand with fingertips highlighted and the text 'use your fingertips'

To carry out the best physical breast exam on yourself at home, you should check your breasts in different positions. You can easily check while lying down when you wake up in the morning or before you go to sleep at night.

When you’re lying flat the breast tissue spreads evenly making this a good time to check for breast lumps. You can place a pillow under your back to make the surface flat and comfortable.

Breast and armpit area highlighted with the text 'examine breasts and armpits'

It’s also important to check for breast lumps and changes while you’re standing or sitting up – you might find this more comfortable and easier to do in the shower when your skin is slippery. Tip: You could also try using massage oil or baby oil.

Use your opposite hand to feel your breast, so your right hand to check your left breast and vice versa. Keep fingers straight and together and use the fingertips with a firm, smooth touch.

arrows on breast showing to use circular and up and down motions

Either start from the nipple, moving outwards in a circular motion, or opt for a more up and down approach. There is no right or wrong way to do the exam, so choose what feels most comfortable for you.

It’s important you cover the entire area from your abdomen to your collarbone and from your armpit to the center of your chest.

line drawing of inflamed breast

If you’ve noticed anything unusual, don’t panic – 8 out of 10 lumps aren’t cancerous. However, please take the time to speak to your doctor or gynecologist if you spot any changes during the exam.

Regular mammograms, especially in women over 40, are also an important part of screening for breast cancer and these can catch irregularities even earlier.

When’s best to carry out a breast exam?

Our community of Cyclers get a reminder in the Natural Cycles app at the optimal time to carry out a self-breast exam. This is shortly after your period has finished as your breasts are less likely to be swollen or sore due to PMS symptoms.

Thanks for reading our self-breast exam guidelines. If you’re interested in learning more about your body, Natural Cycles offers an educational experience teaching you about your cycle whilst helping you to prevent or plan a pregnancy.

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By Jennifer Gray

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