Woman holding her bike and smiling while looking at the distanceWoman holding her bike and smiling while looking at the distance

We recommend that girls in their late teens or early 20s start examining their breasts once a month. The purpose of this breast self-exam is to look for lumps that may be cancerous. Now don't panic! This sounds a lot scarier than it is, because the fact is, many lumps found in the breasts are not cancerous.

Why do a breast self-exam?

By making this a habit now, you'll get to know your breasts better than anyone. So if you have any unusual breast development, you'll know right away.

When should you do a breast self-exam?

Do your monthly breast self-exam after your period so there's less tenderness and swelling. After a few months of checking, you'll become the expert on your breasts. It's a good idea to go through the breast exam with your doctor to make sure you're doing it right. And remember, if you feel a lump or something abnormal, don't wait for it to go away. Talk to your mum and your doctor.

How to Check Your Breasts

  1. Check Them Out
    Turn on a bright light. Standing naked from the waist up in front of a mirror, just look at your breasts. Do you notice anything that has changed, like an inverted nipple, dimpled area or rash on the skin? Next, put your hands on your hips and push down with your arms while pushing your chest out. Do you see anything unusual? The breasts should look the same without any unusual dimpling or puckering. Squeeze each nipple gently to check for discharge. A clear discharge is normal. If you see anything else, tell your mum.

  2. Let Your Fingers Do the Walking
    Lie down on your back (flat) with a cushion under your left shoulder and your left arm under your head. Imagine your left breast is the face of a clock, with circles drawn on it — one inside the other (kind of like a spiral, or the rings around Saturn). With your RIGHT hand begin the examination at the 12:00 position, on the outermost (largest) "ring" of your breast. "Walk" your fingers clockwise all around that outer circle until you get back to the top. Then move your fingers in about an inch towards your nipple and do the same thing around the next, smaller "ring". Continue this way until you've examined all your breast tissue and your nipple area as well. Don't forget to probe a bit more by making more gentle circles under your armpit, because breast tissue extends up under your armpit. Also, if you have larger breasts, you may have to use both light and heavy pressure during your examination to make sure you have checked all of your breast tissue.

  3. Switch Sides
    Now switch sides and repeat. You've Finished!That's it! Your breast self-exam work will be backed up by checks at the doctor's office. In the meantime, report any changes in your breasts or any concerns that you have to your mum and your doctor so they can follow up with further testing.

How do you remember to do your monthly self-exam?