1. With arms at sides, look for changes in breast size, shape, skin color or texture. Check nipple for discharge, scaly skin or dimpling of skin near nipple.
2. Repeat with your arms above your head.
3. With hands on hips, press shoulders forward slightly; both breasts should react the same way to the movement.
Feel for lumps. With a pillow under your shoulder and an arm behind your head, use three fingers to feel whole breast and armpit.
Repeat on other side. Regardless of which directional method you use, use the same method each month.
A BETTER WAY TO EXAMINE YOUR BREASTS
For years women have been told to check their breasts for lumps by using a circular motion. But more and more doctors are now recommending a different technique known as the vertical strips method. It provides more thorough coverage of the breast, including under the arm, says Debbie Saslow, Ph.D., director of breast and gynecologic cancers at the American Cancer Society, which now recommends this method for women who do breast self exams. And according to Harvard researchers, the technique has a better track record of detecting smaller lumps than the circular exam.
Imagine a grid drawn horizontally from your armpit to your breastbone, and vertically from your collarbone to just under your breast.
Using the pads not the tips of your three middle fingers, move in tiny circles and apply varying degrees of pressure, starting under the armpit. Move your fingers down to the next square and repeat. Continue these vertical strips until youve covered the entire grid.
A thorough exam of both breasts should take at least 10 minutes. At your next checkup, ask your doctor to review the vertical strips technique with you.