An Illustrated Guide to Doing a Breast Self-Exam in 4 Easy Steps

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Feel gently with your fingertips. “The key is you don’t have to press down firmly. It’s a light touch. This should not be a painful experience.”

Follow the same pattern every time. “Think of the breast as a clock: 12 o’clock, three o’clock, six o’clock, and nine o’clock, and it just follows around. Start at 12 o’clock, high up on the breast. Use small, circular motions, and go fully around the breast from 12 o’clock, to three o’clock, to six o’clock, to nine o’clock, [and] back to 12 o’clock. When you get back to 12 o’clock, move in a little bit and do the same thing again.”

Cover the entire breast. “As you go around and you move in, you do want to feel behind the nipple; but again, not squeezing the nipple. And then you can feel up into the armpit, what we call the axilla.”

Again, if you find anything out of the norm or different from previous months, visit your doctor.

Step 4

You can feel your breasts in multiple positions (lying down, sitting down, or standing up), or pick one — as long as you do it the same way and in the same place each time. “We want to keep this simple,” Boolbol says. “It’s a visual inspection of the breast and then the exam. Whether you want to do the exam standing or sitting, it does not matter. The point is do it the same way every month.”

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