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Breast Self-Exam: How To

Breasts come in all sizes and shapes, just as women do. Your own breasts will even change throughout your life. Your monthly menstrual cycle and menopause, childbirth, breastfeeding, age, weight changes, and birth control pills or other hormones may change the shape, size, and feel of your breasts.

Breast self-exam is done once a month so that you become familiar with the usual appearance and feel of your own breasts. The best time to do a breast self-exam is two to three days after the end of your period, when your breasts are less likely to be tender or swollen.

If you discover anything unusual, such as lumps, discharge from the nipple or dimpling or puckering of the skin, you should see your doctor at once. Remember, eight out of 10 biopsied breast lumps are not cancer.

Download a PDF of these exam instructions.
Breast HealthCare Center Self Exam card

To perform your breast self-exam:

  • Breast Self Exam How To
  • lie down on your back with a pillow under your left shoulder and your left arm above your head
  • How to Do a Proper Breast Self Exam
  • use the pads of the three middle fingers on your right hand to examine your left breast
  • press in a circular motion – once with light pressure, then once with medium pressure, then once with deep pressure
  • Breast Self Exam How To
  • press in an up and down pattern similar to mowing a lawn


  • start in the middle of the underarm of your left side and move toward
    the middle of your chest
  • feel for changes in your breast, such as any lumps or thickening of breast tissue
  • be sure to check above and below your collarbone
  • follow this procedure to check the right breast
  • Breast Self Exam How To
  • also, stand in front of a mirror and examine your breasts with your hands on your hips and then lift your hands over your head, again checking for any changes in the look of your breasts
  • finally, with your hands on your hips, press down and tense your chest muscles to make any changes more prominent

For more information on breast cancer prevention, visit the Breast HealthCare Center or call 800.996.5433.

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