Breast Self-Exam

Protecting yourself from breast cancer through early detection

When to do it

Breast cancer is very rare in teenagers. However, it's recommended to start examining your breasts as soon as you start having menstrual periods in order to develop a habit that could save your life in the future. Like many diseases, early detection of breast cancer can help you survive it. Once a month 2 to 3 days after your period has finished, do a self-examination for any changes or irregularities. At this time your breasts are least sensitive. Some women experience lumps that come and go during their menstrual cycle. At this time, your breasts are less lumpy, and it will be less likely for you to mistake a normal lump for a new abnormal lump. By regularly checking your breasts, you'll become familiar with your usual texture, and will be able to quickly identify anything abnormal. Doctors can only detect relatively large lumps, so it's primarily up to you to monitor your breasts.

How to do it

Look in the mirror at your breasts with your arms at your sides. Carefully inspect the breasts, looking for shape changes, dimpling, puckering, or nipple inversion. Shape changes and nipple inversion are normal during puberty. But once the breast is fully mature, any of these changes should be examined by a physician.

Raise one arm at a time, inspecting the breast on the same side. Again look for dimpling, puckering, or changes in the nipple. Examine the breasts from the side as well.

Lie down raise one arm behind your head and examine the breast closer to it with the fingers of the opposite hand. Gently press your fingers into the breast tissue. Circle your fingers completely around the breast. Then make little massaging loops around the breast. Many women find it easy to do this in the bathtub as the soapy water allows your fingers to easily slide across the skin. Examine the texture of the breast tissue, checking for lumps. Gently massage the nipple, checking for discharge.

Once your breasts have fully developed, if any of the following symptoms occur, you should report to a physician immediately

Abnormal lumps in the breast or armpit. Remember, there are normal soft, sore lumps that appear and disappear just before your period.

Bulges on the surface of the breast once fully mature.

Any skin resembling an orange peel.

Swelling in the upper arm or armpit.

Discharge or bleeding from the nipple unless its breast milk following a pregnancy.

Inversion of a nipple that normally projects outward once breasts are fully developed.

Recurrent eczema around the nipple.

Dimpling.

Changes in the areola once the breasts are fully developed.

Back to Top

Related Info

Breast anatomy