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Breast self-examination method


Breasts are submitted to continuous modifications during your menstrual cycle. A few days before bleeding, women often notice breast enlargment and mammary tension, which may even be painful. That is why you always have to do the self exam during the same period of your hormonal cycle, at best after your menstrual period. At this time, breast gland is usually softer and easier to feel. Feeling is even more efficient when the skin is wet, for example under the shower or during your bath. It is important to continue self exam regularly after the menopause. If you notice any breast change, do not hesitate to show it to your doctor, knowing that most of these phenomena, for example nodules or skin changes, are benign. For malignant lesions, the sooner a lesion is dectected, the better the outcome will be.

Images and information below tell you what you have to watch for and explain the optimal way of doing breast self exam in five steps.


The exam always begins with breasts inspection in the mirror with your arms along your body. Look for modifications of the size of your breasts, of their shape, of the overlying skin, surface shrinkage/hump or deformation of the nipples. Cross then your arms above your head and repeat this operation.


In standing position, feel your Breasts with all the fingers by flattening your hand; feel your right breast with your left hand and your left breast with your right hand.


It is a good method to begin palpation at the internal aspect of each breast and to progress towards the external side. Usually, the gland is denser in the upper external part of the breast.


Examine separately the gland situated beneath the nipple as well as the nipple itself and the areola around it. Gently squeeze each nipple between your finger and thumb; if you see nipple discharge, notice its colour and its consistency and warn your doctor.


Finally, feel your two armpits. Look for nodules. Small palpable lymph nodes are commonplace, but a modification might be important. Breast palpation must be repeated in recumbent position, because some abnormalities are only felt in this position.

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