How To Do A Breast Self-Check Exam
Nobody knows your body better than you. Period. It’s you who can tell when things feel right and when something is off. You are your body’s best advocate.
Up to 60% of breast cancer is discovered through self-detection (1). It’s never too late to get in the habit of doing regular breast self-checks and becoming familiar with what healthy breasts feel like to you.
It’s time to know yourself more intimately.
Be Your Own Diagnostic Tool
Here is where we want you to take a moment to tune into your gut and intuition because knowing your body is a tool of women’s health that’s greatly underserved. You are the first person that’s responsible for your overall health and well-being, making it imperative that you’re proactive in your approach to your breast health.
Developing a loving relationship with your breasts can take time, and the energy with which you approach your body and breasts is very important. Instead of letting the idea of a breast self-check exam be filled with intimidation and fear, approach it with the idea of tuning in. Repeat this mantra (1) while doing your exam and let the love flow through you: You are safe with me.
The Benefits of Breast Self-Check Exams
While performing a self-check can not only support a healthy lymph flow, boosting blood circulation and detoxifying excess estrogen, it also allows you to develop a nurturing relationship with your breasts and body. This is the key to ensuring that you’ll routinely return to self-exams, gaining confidence with the idea and often being the first one to notice if something is feeling off.
Many women have a fearful relationship with their breasts. If you’re too scared to do a self-check exam, simply start with a loving massage with Nala’s Breast Oil. This will help you get comfortable with your breasts, creating space for an appreciation of your body.
A beautiful dry oil to support and supplement daily breast checks:
Steps to Completing a Breast Self-Check
To do a breast self-check exam, first begin with a visual examination of your breasts. Standing in front of the mirror, shirtless and braless, inspect your breasts visually through the following (2):
- Look for puckering, dimpling, or changes in size, shape or symmetry
- See if your nipples are turned in (inverted)
- Inspect your breasts with your hands pressed down on your hips
- Inspect your breasts with your arms raised overhead and the palms of your hands pressed together
- Lift your breasts to see if the ridges along the bottom are symmetrical
"First, lie down. This helps increase the surface area of the breast tissue making it easier to find any imbalances"
Next, you’ll want to inspect your breasts with your arms. First, lie down. This helps increase the surface area of the breast tissue making it easier to find any imbalances (3). Remember to take your time here, really getting familiar with your specific tissue. You’ll want to use the pads of your fingers (not the very tips), to:
- Check your entire breast, feeling all of the tissue from the collarbone to the bottom of the bra line and from the armpit to the breastbone (3).
- Use your left hand to check your right breast, and your right hand to check your left breast.
- Use different pressure levels, feeling the various depths of your breasts. This means using light pressure to feel the tissue closest to the skin, medium pressure to feel a little deeper, and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs (2).
- Don’t lift your fingers away if you feel lumps, unusual thickness, or any changes. Explore and get more familiar with what you’re feeling.
Develop a pattern or rhythm that’s unique to you, repeating the same process each time to ensure you’re always covering the same surface area. The shower is also a great time to perform a self-breast exam as soapy skin can be easier to slide across and explore.
Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, you’re likely to find lumps or changes in your breasts. Finding such a thing isn’t a reason to panic. Breasts feel different in different places, and they’ll change as you age. So breathe, and remember that most breast problems or changes are caused by something other than cancer (3).
It’s this innate knowing of what your breasts look and feel like that will reduce your inner panic. Once you’re in tune with your body, you can call your doctor to make an appointment should you see any changes, such as (2,3):
- Any new lump
- Unusually thick areas
- Sticky or bloody discharge from your nipples
- Any changes in the skin of your breasts or nipples, such as puckering or dimpling
- An unusual increase in the size of one breast
- One breast is unusually lower than the other
- A hard lump or knot near your underarm
- Dimples, puckers, bulges or ridges on the skin of your breast
- A recent change in a nipple to become pushed in (inverted) instead of sticking out
- Redness, warmth, swelling or pain
- Itching, scales, sores or rashes
Even if you choose to do breast self-examinations, talk to your doctor about having regular mammograms as well as regular breast checkups at your doctor's office or the mammogram centre.
And remember, your best health starts with knowing your body.
Poitras, Rachel. “Heal Your Breasts.” Metanoia Online Course, https://www.hermetanoia.com/heal-sign-up.
“Breast Self-Examination.” MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal, https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=hw3791.
“Breast Self-Exam for Breast Awareness.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 June 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/breast-exam/about/pac-20393237.