How to Self-Check for Breast Cancer

| How-To

Why You Should Self-Check for Breast Cancer

There are currently more than 3.8 million women in the US who have a history of breast cancer. As the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in American women, the toll it takes on those affected and their families is tragic and difficult to convey. Early detection of breast cancer gives a woman a 93 percent higher survival rate in her first five years of treatment. This makes it crucial for adult women to self-check for breast cancer often starting as early as age 20.

It’s important to note that self-checks are not definitive ways to identify breast cancer. Instead, they’re a practice of familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of your breasts which allows you to detect lumps or other abnormalities before they turn into an invasive form of breast cancer.

How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

Step 1 - Visual examination

Remove your clothes and stand facing a mirror. Lift up your arms and visually inspect each side of your breast. Then place your hands on your waist and repeat the visual inspection. Lean forward and repeat it one last time. Be aware of any lumps, nipple retractions, dimpling, large rashes, or other abnormalities you visually notice.

Diagram of a woman lifting arms

Step 2 - Physical examination

Stand upright and use your hand to apply light pressure to your breast from several angles. Push downward and inward towards your nipple and be aware of any pain, unusual lumps, or other abnormalities you previously did not notice.

Diagram of woman examining the top of breast for breast cancer

Step 3 - Continued physical examination

Lie down on your back, raise your arm, and push down towards your breast starting at the top of your armpit. Then move your free hand in circular motions around your breast while your other arm is still raised above your head. Repeat the process on the opposite side. Again, be aware of any unusual lumps, pain, or discoloration you may notice.

Diagram of woman lying down with arms back

"About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer."

BreastCancer.org

Who Should Self-Check for Breast Cancer

Any woman, with or without a family history of breast cancer, should self-check often. It’s important to note that self-checks are not definitive ways to identify breast cancer. Instead, they’re a practice of familiarizing yourself with the anatomy of your breasts. Improving your familiarity will allow you to detect lumps or other abnormalities before they turn into invasive breast cancer.

Since a woman’s likelihood of developing breast cancer can increase with age, several types of exams are recommended throughout their lifetime.

The American Cancer Society recommends three types of exams at different life stages. Exams such as mammograms are recommended later in life because they are capable of detecting breast cancer that oftentimes cannot be felt during a self-check breast exam.

ExamRecommended ageNotes
Breast self-exam (BSE)20+Preventative exam. Every year. Report any findings to your primary care doctor.
Clinical breast exam (CBE)20-39Periodic health screening. Every 3 years.
Mammogram40+Periodic health screening. Every year.

What Should You Do If You Detect Something?

Don't panic. Noticing a lump or abnormality on your breasts can be an alarming moment. Despite that, it’s important to keep in mind that a self-check breast exam is not definitive proof that you are experiencing breast cancer. Always consider allowing a qualified physician to perform a clinical breast exam or a mammogram to provide definitive results.

Remember to prioritize your breast health and don't delay in scheduling an appointment if you notice anything concerning during a self-examination of your breasts.

Schedule a Mammogram

A clinical breast exam or a mammogram are crucial early detection tools that can give you the clarity you need about your breast health. Schedule a mammogram at Schneck today

Book an Appointment

Stay Informed. Get Involved.

Explore the latest Schneck news, blogs, and upcoming events.

Outstanding Patient Experience Award 2020 - 2022
News

Healthgrades Awards Schneck with Outstanding Patient Experience Award

Read News »
Nurse Residents
News

Schneck’s Nurse Residency Program Graduates Eight in August Ceremony

Read News »