Health-Related Issues -- Breast Self-Exam

Breast self-exam is a simple monthly check for lumps or other abnormalities. Although breast cancer is rare in college age women, it continues to a major health problems in older women. The advantages of starting breast self-exam at an early age include: 1) becoming familiar with your breast, 2) detection of other breast conditions, such as fibrocystic disease, and 3) early detection of malignant tumors. Most breast lumps are non-cancerous, but all lumps should be reported to your physician.

It is not unusual for the breast to feel lumpy or uneven. Sometimes lumps appear before or during the menstrual period and disappear afterwards. The best time to do the breast exam is 2-3 days after the end of the menstrual flow, when the breasts are less likely to be swollen or tender.

How to do a breast self-exam

  • Examine each of your breast in the mirror. Place your arms at your sides and look to see if the breast are equal in size (it is not unusual for one breast to be larger than the other). Raise your arms up, and then place your hands on your hips. Look for changes in the shape of the breast, swelling, dimpling of the skin, or nipple changes. Examine each breast with the opposite hand, using 3-4 fingers, moving in a circular motion from the nipple outward. Squeeze the nipple to check for discharge (report to your physician if present).
  • Lie down with a small pillow or towel under your one of your shoulders, with the arm on the same side under your head. Examine the breast with opposite hand, using the same circular motion as above. Press firmly to check for lumps or other irregularities. Then examine the other breast in the same manner. A small ridge around the lower the lower edge of the breast is normal.
  • In the shower, while wet and soapy, the fingers move easily over the skin to detect lumps. Examine the breast in the same circular motion.
  • DO NOT PANIC if you find a lump or discharge. It is probably not cancer. Contact your physician for an examination.