5 Step Breast Cancer Self-Check Exam

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Pink Breast cancer awareness ribbon holding by woman who need to show healthcare concept.

Most women are familiar with breast checks—general physicians and gynecologists teach the importance of these checks for early signs of breast cancer. But women are not the only  ones who need to check breast tissue for signs of cancer. Men have breast tissue along their pectorals as well and face some of the same risk factors. Since this month is National Cancer Prevention Month, we here at Steamboat Emergency Center want to encourage everyone, no matter your gender, to perform thorough self-exams of your breast tissue.

What do we mean by “thorough” self-exam? A thorough self-exam has 5 steps in it, as detailed by breastcancer.org for optimal breast health. We will go through them below so that you can follow along and check your breast tissue for any signs of concern.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Check out your chest in the mirror. Do you notice anything abnormal? Look for signs of:

  • Swelling
  • Distortion
  • Discoloration
  • Dimpling
  • Puckering
  • Bulging
  • Redness
  • Soreness
  • Rash

If your nipple or areola looks like it is a different color or is in a different position than normal, that could be a subtle sign of breast tissue distress. You will want to consult with a physician as soon as you can.


After your visual check, raise up your arms and look for the same signs. Do you see any swelling, redness, or distortion yet? It can be important to look at your chest from a variety of angles, since breast tissue reaches all the way to your underarms and the sides of your rib cage—places that are harder for us to reach or see. Turn side-to-side and give your chest a good once over with your arms up to make sure no signs of poor health are hiding from you.


Now you will want to check for any signs of fluid coming from your nipples. With your arms still up in the mirror, look and see if there are any signs of discharge. This could be a watery fluid, milky fluid, yellow fluid, puss, or blood—all of them are signs that something is not right with your breast health. If you feel tenderness near your nipple and are worried about any discharge, press the area a bit and see if fluid comes out. Handle your breast tissue with care and consult a physician immediately if you find any signs of distress.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Now that you’ve have your arms in the air for a while, it is time to give them a rest. Lay down on your back and keep your left arm tucked behind your head. With your right hand, start to feel your left breast or the left side of your pectorals. Move your fingertips in circular motions over your whole breast.

It is recommended that you start at the nipple, feeling in a spiral rotation around the areola, then slowly moving outward. Go all the way to the underside of your chest using medium pressure the further you get from your nipple. While still laying down, use a firmer pressure to feel along your armpit, where you breast tissue connects to your waist and back.

When your left breast is checked, switch arms and move to the right. Make sure you note any areas that are sore or particularly tender. If you feel any lumps in your breast tissue, seek immediate consultation with a physician.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, stand back up and lift your left arm. It is time to repeat the previous step, feeling and checking your breast tissue with your right hand. While it can seem a bit tedious to perform the same circular pattern twice, it is easier to feel different areas of your pectorals and breast tissue when you are reclining or standing, so to be thorough you want to check both.

A lot of people say that this final step of the exam is easier to perform when their skin is wet, so you can complete this while in the shower.

In the event that you find any lumps or swelling, please seek immediate medical consultation. Breast Cancer is not something to take lightly. We here at Steamboat Emergency Center always advise that you get checked and be aware of the signs of breast cancer.

Nutex Health, Inc. supports you and your family’s health. Come visit Steamboat Emergency Center or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.