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Breast self-examination

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over the age of 20 examine their breasts once a month. BSE (breast self examination) is encouraged, because breast cancer symptoms can develop and be noticed between physician breast exams or mammography. When performing BSE, remember to:

  • Examine your breasts at the same time each month.
  • Examine your breasts completely, including tissue that extends toward the shoulder.
  • Use the pads of your fingers and apply adequate pressure.

How to Perform Breast Self-Examination

  1. Lie down. Flatten your right breast by placing a pillow under your right shoulder. If your breasts are large, use your right hand to hold your right breast while you do the exam with your left hand
  2. Use the sensitive pads of the middle three fingers on your left hand. Feel for lumps using a rubbing motion.
  3. Press firmly enough to feel different breast tissues.
  4. Completely feel all the breast and chest area to cover breast tissue that extends toward the shoulder. Allow enough time for a complete exam. Women with small breasts will need at least two minutes to examine each breast. Larger breasts take longer.
  5. Use the same pattern to feel every part of the breast tissue. Choose the method easiest for you. The diagrams show the three patterns preferred by women and their doctors: the circular pattern, the vertical strip and the wedge.
  6. After you have completely examined your right breast, then examine your left breast using the same method. Compare what you have felt in one breast with the other.
  7. You may also want to examine your breasts while bathing, when the skin is wet and lumps may be easier to feel.
  8. Check your breasts in a mirror and look for any change in size or contour, dimpling of the skin or spontaneous nipple discharge.
  9. Perform your monthly self-examination when your breasts are least lumpy. If you are menstruating regularly, you should examine your breasts at the end of your period. If you do not have menstrual periods, perform your self-exam on the same day every month.

Beginning at age 40, the American Cancer Society recommends that women receive regular mammograms for the early detection of breast cancer, in addition to performing monthly breast self-examination. Baptist Health Louisville offers mammography services through its Women's Imaging Services, located in the hospital. For more information about mammography services or for a free breast self-exam chart, call the Baptist Health Information Center at (502) 897-8131 or e-mail