Breast Self-exam (BSE)
What Is a Breast Self-exam?
Steps for a Breast Self-exam
- Lie down with a pillow under your left shoulder. Place your left arm behind your head.
- Use the finger pads of your right hand to feel for lumps in your left breast. Move the finger pads in little circles to feel for any lumps.
- Use varying levels of pressure to feel the breast tissue:
A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal.
- Light pressure to feel tissue beneath the skin
- Medium pressure to feel deeper tissue
- Firm pressure to feel tissue near the chest and ribs
- Move around the breast using a up and down pattern. Check the whole breast area—from the bottom of the breast up to the collar bone, as well as from the chest bone to the underarm.
- Repeat the exam on your right breast, using the finger pads of your left hand.
- Stand in front of a mirror so that you can clearly see both of your breasts. Press your hands firmly on your hips. Look for any changes in the size, shape, or contour of the breasts. See if the skin (including the nipple) has any puckering, dimpling, scaliness, or redness.
- Lastly, check each underarm while you are sitting or standing. Raise your arm a little so that you can feel the underarm area. Note: If you raise your arm too high, it will be harder to feel this area.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org
Women's Health—Office on Women's Health http://www.womenshealth.gov
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation http://www.cbcf.org
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
American Cancer Society guidelines for breast cancer screening: update 2003. CA-A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. May/June 2003.
Breast awareness and self-exam. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/breastcancerearlydetection/breast-cancer-early-detection-acs-recs-bse. Updated January 28, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2014.
Breast cancer screening concepts. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/screening/breast/healthprofessional/page4. Updated March 7, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014 -
- Update Date: 03/11/2014 -