Breast self-examination: How to check for early signs of breast cancer

Here's a step-by-step tutorial on doing at-home breast self-examinations to look for breast cancer's early warning indicators.

One proactive approach for people to keep an eye on their breast health and possibly spot early warning symptoms of breast cancer is to conduct routine breast self-examinations, or BSEs. Self-examinations can be a useful tool, but it's important to remember that they can't replace routine mammograms or clinical breast exams performed by medical experts.

Dr. Monika Pansari, HOD and Senior Consultant Surgical Oncology (Breast and Gyneac) at Gleneagles Hospitals in Bengaluru, provided a detailed tutorial on how to conduct a breast self-exam in an interview with HT Lifestyle.

Choose a Regular Time: Every month at the same time, ideally a few days after your menstrual cycle stops, conduct the self-examination. Select a particular day for postmenopausal women to celebrate each month.

  1#.  Visual Inspection: 

  • Position yourself facing a mirror and keep your arms by your sides.
  • Examine each breast for variations in its size, shape, and contour.
  • Examine the skin for any bulging, dimpling, or puckering.
  • Look for any changes in the nipples, including inversion or discharge.

2#. Raise Your Arms: 

  • Raise your arms above your head and search for similar variations in dimensions, outlines, and forms.
  • Keep a watch on any changes to the skin around the nipple.

3#. Feel for Changes while Lying Down:

  • Place a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head while you lie down.
  • From the outside to the centre, feel the entire right breast with your left hand in circular motions.
  • Apply gentle, medium, and firm pressure while observing any changes or lumps that may form.

4#. Feel for Changes while Sitting Up:

  • Raise your right arm when sitting or standing.
  • Examine the right breast using the same circular motion with your left hand.

5#. Repeat for the Left Breast:

  • Examine the left breast with the right hand using the same procedures.

6#. Check the Nipples:

  • Squeeze each nipple gently and observe any changes or discharge.

7#. Note Any Changes:

  • See a medical practitioner right away if you observe any changes, including lumps, swelling, skin changes, or nipple discharge.

  • To make sure you're feeling the full breast tissue, use the pads of your fingertips rather than the tips.
  • To make sure you examine every part of the breast, conduct the exam methodically.
  • Breast lumps are common, especially in the premenstrual period. Pay attention to any unexpected or changing patterns.


Recall that routine breast self-examinations have to be a part of an all-encompassing strategy for maintaining optimal breast health, one that also incorporates routine clinical breast exams and mammograms as advised by your physician. If you have any worries or inquiries, consult a medical practitioner.

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