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A full breast self-exam involves examining your breasts in two ways: looking and feeling.
Looking: Stand up and look at your breasts in three positions:
The American Cancer Society recommends that you look for changes in shape or skin color, dimpling of the skin, or changes in your nipples. It also recommends that you do the exam the same way every time.
Feeling: Prop yourself up under the shoulder with a folded towel on the same side as breast being examined. (Figure 4)
With the pads of three fingers, press on your breast in a circular motion using three degrees of pressure: light, medium and hard. (Figure 5)
Cover the entire area of breast in a systematic way. It may help to visualize either concentric circles, pie-shaped wedges (Figure 6)or up-and-down lines (Figure 7)across the area to be examined and cover one area at a time so you don't miss any spots. The entire area of breast should be checked. Also check the areas between the breast and the underarm, the underarm itself, and the area above the breast, up to the collarbone and all the way out to your shoulder. (Figure 8)
Large-breasted women should examine their breasts in two stages. First, lying down, check the outside of the breast. Then, lying on side, check the inside of the breast. (Figure 9)
Repeat steps 3-6 for other side.
The American Cancer Society also recommends that you squeeze both nipples, looking for any discharge.
If you find any changes, see your doctor right away.
Video and text excerpted from "The New B.S.E.: With Mariette Hartley," copyright 1997, Lange Productions, www.langeproductions.com