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Self Breast Exams


  • Women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year
  • Women at higher-than-average risk should seek expert medical advice on whether they should begin screening at age 40 and the frequency of screening
  • Women of all ages should practice monthly breast self-examination and have regular clinical breast exams done by a health care professional.

When to check

At the same time each month, check for a lump, hard knot, thickening or discharge. If you feel anything unusual see your doctor about a mammogram.

In the shower

Raise your arm and with fingers flat, mover over breast, including armpit area. Use left have for right breast, right hand for left breast. In front of the mirror:

Look for any changes in shape or contour of breast. Note any swelling, dimpling of skin or changes in the skin or nipple. First, inspect breasts with arms at your sides. Next, raise arms high overhead. Then rest palms on hips and press down firmly to flex chest muscles. Left and right breast will not match exactly -- few women's breasts do. 

Lying down

Put a pillow under your right shoulder and arm behind your head. Fingers flat, use left hand to press gently in a circular motion. Include armpit and chest area from collarbone to below breast. Repeat using firmer pressure. Gently squeeze nipple to check for discharge. Repeat on left breast.

© 2014 Karmanos Cancer Institute Pencil
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.