Breast Cancer Self-Check Guide with Free PDF - Women Health Hub

Step-by-Step Breast Cancer Self-Check Guide: How to Do Breast Cancer Self-Exam at Home (+ Get Free Printable PDF)

Knowing how to conduct breast cancer self-exam at home is an important skill, particularly during the quarantine. This step-by-step breast cancer self-check guide (+ FREE printable PDF) will help you stay alert & recognize any signs of breast cancer early on. 

Despite the availability of various successful treatments, in the last decade breast cancer cases have increased rapidly in most regions — especially in underdeveloped countries.

Why?

Mainly because of the lack of awareness about breast cancer self-exam in women which leads to late diagnosis & higher death risk.

How Common Is Breast Cancer?

According to an estimate by The American Cancer Society, there were almost 268,600 new cases of female breast cancer in 2019. Out of these, approximately 41,760 women were expected to die the same year.

And as if that isn’t shocking enough, here’s a table by World Cancer Research Fund International showing the top 10 countries in 2018 with the highest breast cancer rates.

No.CountryRate of BC per 100,000
1Belgium113.2
2Luxembourg109.3
3Netherlands105.9
4France (metropolitan)99.1
5New Caledonia (France)98.0
6Lebanon97.6
7Australia94.5
8UK93.6
9Italy92.8
10New Zealand92.6

The breast cancer diagnosis reaches its peak after the age of 50 (or following menopause) and most deaths likely occur in the 80s.

Research shows that the two main problems contributing to the increased breast cancer rates are:

  • Decreased number of births per woman
  • High body mass index (BMI) leading to obesity

Benefits of Knowing How to Do Breast Cancer Self-Check

Here are a few reasons why you should know how to self-examine for breast cancer:

  • To Look for Abnormalities:

Breast cancer self-check can sometimes help you discover cysts or tumors at the early stages, making them easier to treat.

  • To Reduces Stress:

Dealing with breast cancer isn’t easy and is a difficult time for both the patient and her family. Women need immense support and strength to cope with the mental & physical toll that comes with chemotherapy.

Additionally, breast cancer treatment is super expensive and often leads to a financial burden.

  • To Identify Successful Treatment Options:

In many developed countries, women are required to undergo periodic screening for breast cancer to identify who’s at risk or might have developed breast cancer symptoms. This ensures timely and urgent treatments and prevents irreversible harm.

  • To Stay Prepared During Quarantine:

During quarantine, most medical facilities in lesser developed countries are using their resources to treat COVID-19 patients.

Thus, breast cancer diagnoses or treatments aren’t exactly a priority at the moment. So it’s up to us women to stay alert about our health. Conduct monthly breast self-exam at home to make sure everything’s good.

Now let’s move on to the guide on how to self-check your breasts at home.

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Step by step breast cancer self check guide + free printable inside

Complete Step-by-Step Guide on How to Conduct Breast Cancer Self-Exam at Home

The first thing you should know is that breast cancer self-check can be performed using 3 different methods. You won’t need any diagnostic kits for these techniques. 

We’ll go through the details of each method one by one.

Don’t want to read now? Download Free PDF for Breast Cancer Self-Check at home to take with you on the go!

Free Download + Print Guide - How to Do Breast Self-Exam

Breast Cancer Self-Check Method 1: Mirror

You’ll need access to a mirror to observe your breasts and look for cancer signs.

Step # 1: Stand in Front of a Mirror

Stand naked in front of a mirror where you have a clear and complete view of your chest. I would recommend choosing a full-length mirror because it gives you better visibility.

Step # 2: Inspect Your Breasts in Four Positions

While standing, change your positions in the following ways so you can view your breasts from various angles and look for suspicious signs.

  • Place each arm straight on your sides
  • Raise both arms straight up over your head
  • Bend forward and place the hands on your hips
  • Place hands on the hips and breathe in to check the chest

Step # 3: Look for Alarming Signs & Sudden Changes

While inspecting your breasts, look out for these changes:

  • Are there any reddish spots or rashes?
  • Are the breasts the proper shape? Naturally, some women may have asymmetrical boobs. But sudden changes in size could be risky.
  • Are there any dimples, weird wrinkles, dips, or pore-like spots?
  • Are there any protuberances or visible lumps on the boobs or underarms?
  • Do the nipples look normal? Look out for a dry-skin look, misshaped or inverted nipples, discoloration, swelling, or itchiness.
  • Is there any unexpected nipple discharge such as blood, pus-like fluid, or water?
  • Do you see any pronounced veins around the boobs? If there’s an unusual number or size of veins in any of the breasts, it could be a dangerous sign.

Step # 4: Change Your Angle While Viewing

Turn to your left, right, and front sides to look for lumps and shape differences. This will help you check from various angles and find even the slightest signs of breast cancer.

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How to do breast self exam at home without diagnostic kits

Breast Cancer Self-Check Method 2: Shower

This method involves two senses: touch and observe. Many women find it easier to examine breasts while taking a bath. Being slathered with soap enhances the ability to feel abnormalities. While this works for many, you can do this without the soap as well.

Step # 1: Apply Generous Soap or Lotion

Using soap or any products you normally use, produce enough lather so you can easily make slippery motions. Some women prefer lotions.

Step # 2: Sit or Stand in Front of a Mirror

Most women find it easy to feel for suspicious lumps when they are sitting or standing. You can choose either or both of these positions for this method. Make sure you have a mirror in front giving you a full view of the chest.

Learn how to do a complete breast cancer🎗self-exam at home (Grab your FREE printable guide!)

Step # 3: Inspect Your Chest in Three Ways

Turn left, right, and front while in the following poses so you get the perfect view of your chest and can identify any abnormal symptoms.

  • Raise your arms over your head
  • Bend forward with both hands on hips
  • Breathe in to observe the chest

Step # 4: Apply Varying Pressure Using Fingertips

You’ll need to apply pressure using fingers to feel for lumps or hardened regions and simultaneously observe the chest using similar techniques mentioned in Method 1. 

Here are a few things to be mindful of while using hands for breast cancer self-check:

  • Use the first 3 finger-pads and move them on each breast while applying firm pressure to feel for hardened masses.
  • Use left-hand fingers to feel the right breast and vice versa.
  • Move the fingers in a circular motion on the entire breast including edges, near the nipples, under armpits, and near the collarbone.
  • To check for abnormal discharge, gently press the nipples.
  • Don’t lift off your fingers as it can disrupt the process.
  • Change between low and high pressure while feeling different regions of your chest. In the soft regions such as near nipples, you’ll need to apply low pressure. Whereas in the areas with thicker tissue, high pressure is needed.

Step # 5: Check For Strange Cancer Symptoms

If you notice any or all of these changes, it could be because of underlying cancer.

  • Reddish rashes or spots, orange-peel like pores, dips or uncommon folds on breast skin
  • Sudden changes in breast shape or size
  • Visible lumps or hard regions on the chest or inside armpits that won’t move if you touch them
  • Scaly, inverted, itchy or swollen nipples

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Breast cancer self check methods + free pdf guide

Breast Cancer Self-Check Method 3: Bed

Lastly, you’ll need to lay down on your bed and use your sense of touch for breast cancer self-check. Laying down spreads the breast tissues and thins out the surface, making it easier for you to feel any signs of tumors or cysts.

Step # 1: Lay Down on Bed with a Pillow

Place a pillow underneath the shoulders as you lie down. While feeling the right side, the pillow should be placed under the right shoulder. Then shift it to your left while checking the other breast.

Step # 2: Position Your Arms

Spread out your arm straight over your head so you can perform thorough breast cancer self-check and check under the armpits as well.

Women Health Hub - How to do breast cancer self exam at your home without kits

Step # 3: Follow Proper Touch-and-Feel Techniques

This method only involves the touch sense. As done in Method 2, you’ll apply pressure all over each breast using your fingertips to feel for any hard immovable lumps. 

Keep these tips in your mind while doing breast cancer self-check:

  • Join the first 3 fingertips or pads to apply varying pressure on various regions of your chest.
  • Cradle the breasts from above and below and apply pressure using fingertips to feel the tissues.
  • To check the left side breast, use the right hand’s fingertips and vice versa.
  • Start from the nipple and gradually move outward to the edges and armpits while applying pressure in circular, diagonal, upward, and downward motions. 
  • Use your fingertips to feel the edges, near the collarbone, cleavage, near the nipples, under the boobs, and the armpits.
  • To feel the upper layer you’ll need to apply soft pressure; for the tissue in the middle of the breasts apply medium pressure; and for the deep tissue near the ribs, use firm fingers to feel for abnormalities.
  • Gently squeeze the nipples to check for discharge.
  • Don’t lift off your fingers during the process. Make continuous uninterrupted motions.

Step # 4: Look Out for Strange Signs

Check for any hardened masses or lumps or dry, wrinkly skin signs as they might indicate an underlying cancerous tumor development. Bloody, watery or yellowish nipple discharge could also be the sign of breast problem.

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Step by step guide to do breast self exam at home

Breast Cancer Self-Check FAQs

Many of you must’ve questions about breast cancer self-exam at home. I’m answering a few here but if I’ve missed any, please share them in the comments.

Step-by-Step Breast Cancer Self-Check Guide: How to Do Breast Cancer Self-Exam at Home (+ Get Free Printable PDF) 1
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

I hope this blog helped you understand the importance of why women should know about breast cancer self-examination + how to perform breast self-check every month.

If you found this guide useful, please share it across your network, with your friends and family. You could empower women to take charge of their health and prioritize their wellbeing.

If you love this guide and want to save it for future read, download it here! 👇

Free breast cancer self check guide - download and print!

References:

  • https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures/breast-cancer-facts-and-figures-2019-2020.pdf
  • https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/benign-breast-lumps
  • https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam
  • https://www.missionrmc.org/services/breast-care-center/steps-to-breast-self-examination/
  • https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/what-is-brca#:~:text=The%20name%20%E2%80%9CBRCA%E2%80%9D%20is%20an,do%20not%20cause%20breast%20cancer.
  • https://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/GeneMutationsampGeneticTesting.html

Sabika

Hey hey!

I'm the creator of Women Health Hub. After graduating as a biomedical engineer, I decided to pursue health writing because of my deep passion for writing & health. In 2019, I started Women Health Hub with an aim to empower and educate women to improve their wellbeing. Besides blogging, I love playing word games, Netflix & cooking.

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2 Comments

  1. Ah this post came to me at such a great time. I recently tested for the BRCA gene because my maternal grandmother has it and breast cancer and her brother did as well. So I have definitely had this on my mind and have been worried about it. I haven’t gotten the results back yet, but even so all this information is so helpful. I try to check my breasts as often as I can with this history of breast cancer running through my family. Thanks so much for sharing this very useful and helpful post!

    1. Sabika says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Charity. That’s great, regular exams + the gene test both are the best ways to prevent breast cancer.

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