How to perform a breast self-exam

Women are encouraged to perform a monthly breast self-examination as an important part of looking after their health. Women aged between 50-69 years should also participate in regular mammogram screenings.

Young women who menstruate should examine their breasts after their period has finished, when the glandular breast tissue is at its softest. Older women can examine their breasts at any time during the month.

1. Start the examination by removing your clothes and looking at your breasts in the mirror. Are there any changes in the shape or colour of the breasts? Is any discharge coming out of the nipples, is there any dimpling of the skin, an inverted nipple, or a rash on the skin or nipple? Look at your breasts from the front and the sides, first with your arms by your sides and then with your arms raised.

2. Sit down and feel your left breast with your right hand and then your right breast with your left hand. Feel each breast with your fingers together applying soft pressure. Make sure that you go over the entire breast. Feel each breast first with your arm down, then with your arm out to the side and then with your arm raised.

3. Then lie down and feel your breasts again while lying down. You will only be able to feel some changes in certain positions.

4. If you feel a lump, hardening or change in the breast, go and see your doctor. Even the smallest changes and suspicions should always be checked out.

Riikka Huovinen, Docent and Specialist in Oncology, from the Turku University Hospital was interviewed for this article.