A breast self-exam for breast awareness is an inspection of your breasts that you do on your own. To help increase your breast awareness, you use your eyes and hands to determine if there are any changes to the look and feel of your breasts.
If you notice new breast changes, discuss these with your doctor. Though most breast changes detected during a self-exam for breast awareness have benign causes, some changes may signal something serious, such as breast cancer.
Most medical organizations don't recommend routine breast self-exams as a part of breast cancer screening. That's because breast self-exams haven't been shown to be effective in detecting cancer or improving survival for women who have breast cancer.
Still, doctors believe there is value in women being familiar with their own breasts, so they understand what's normal and promptly report changes.
A breast self-exam that you do for breast awareness helps you understand the normal look and feel of your breasts. If you notice a change in your breasts that seems abnormal or if you notice one breast is different when compared with the other, you can report it to your doctor.
There are many conditions that can cause changes in your breasts, including breast cancer.
Although the breast self-exam technique isn't always a reliable way to detect breast cancer, a significant number of women report that the first sign of their breast cancer was a new breast lump they discovered on their own. For this reason, doctors recommend being familiar with the normal consistency of your breasts.
A breast self-exam for breast awareness is a safe way to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts.
However, there are some limitations and risks, including:
Discuss the benefits and limitations of being familiar with the consistency of your breasts with your doctor.
To prepare for your breast self-exam for breast awareness:
Sit or stand shirtless and braless in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides. To inspect your breasts visually, do the following:
If you have a vision impairment that makes it difficult for you to visually inspect your breasts, ask a trusted friend or a family member to help you.
Common ways to perform the manual part of the breast exam include:
When examining your breasts, some general tips to keep in mind include:
If you have a disability that makes it difficult to examine your breasts using this technique, you likely can still conduct a breast self-exam. Ask your doctor to show you ways you can examine your breasts.
To perform a breast self-exam for breast awareness, use a methodical approach that ensures you cover your entire breast. For instance, imagine that your breasts are divided into equal wedges, like pieces of a pie, and sweep your fingers along each piece in toward your nipple.
Many women find lumps or changes in their breasts, since some of these are normal changes that occur at various points in the menstrual cycles. Finding a change or lump in your breast is not a reason to panic. Breasts often feel different in different places. A firm ridge along the bottom of each breast is normal, for instance. The look and feel of your breasts will change as you age.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice:
Your doctor may recommend additional tests and procedures to investigate breast changes, including a clinical breast exam, mammogram and ultrasound.