5-Step Breast Self-Exam


By Jo Anne Barrios, MD, OBGYN, Baton Rouge General Physicians
on May 21, 2013

By JoAnne Barrios, MD | Obstetrics and Gynecology


Step 1
Lie down and place your right arm behind your head.  

 

 
Step 2
Use the finger pads (tips) of your three middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue.

Step 3
Use three different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue.

  • Light pressure to feel the tissue closest to the skin
  • Medium pressure to feel a little deeper
  • Firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs
Use each pressure level to feel the breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.

Step 4
Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone (sternum or breastbone) like a snake. Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).


Step 5
Repeat the exam on your left breast, putting your left arm behind your head and using the finger pads of your right hand to do the exam.

 

 
Before You Get Dressed Again…
While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, dimpling, redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin.

You should also examine each underarm with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it harder to examine.


 

Ages 20 to 39

  • Conduct breast self-exams on a monthly basis to look for any changes in the look or feel of your breasts.
  • Make sure you get a clinical breast exam from either your primary care physician or gynecologist at least every three years.
  • Talk to your doctor if you believe you may be at higher risk for developing breast cancer to find out what additional regular screenings you may need to have.

Ages 40 and Older

  • Conduct breast self-exams on a monthly basis to look for any changes in the look or feel of your breasts.
  • Make sure you get a clinical breast exam from either your primary care physician or gynecologist every year.
  • Get an annual screening mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breast. To have your next mammogram scheduled at Baton Rouge General's Women's Center, please talk to your primary care physician.
  • Talk to your doctor if you believe you may be at higher risk for developing breast cancer to find out what additional regular screenings you may need to have.

The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass, but other signs of breast cancer include:
  • Swelling of all or part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. 




About the Author

Jo Anne Barrios, MD - OBGYN, Baton Rouge General Physicians

Jo Anne Barrios, MD

OBGYN, Baton Rouge General Physicians

Jo Anne Barrios, MD, is a graduate of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. She completed her OB/GYN residency at Earl K. Long Medical Center and Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Dr. Barrios also received training in Pathology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a member of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Medical Association.

To learn more about Dr. Barrios, click here.

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