Check your breasts • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

Check your breasts

Many women are reluctant to check their breasts because they think they might not do it correctly or they may be scared of actually finding something wrong.

However, there’s no “correct” technique that has to be followed and you don’t need any training; it’s just important to become familiar with the way your breasts normally look and feel, and continue to check regularly for any unusual changes.

Check out our informative video or our step-by-step guide below...

Video

Checked your breasts lately?
We’ll show you how.

How do I check my own breasts

It’s as simple as TLC – Touch, Look, Check. Tap the icons below to learn about each process.

It's about detecting any changes which can be felt in your breasts such as a lump, or thickening of the tissue, or anything that feels totally different from any other area in either breast.

In the shower or bath

In the shower or bath

It helps to have your hands slippery when checking your breasts. Shower gel or soap will make it easier to slide your hand over your breasts.

  1. Raise one arm behind your head. Hold your fingers together.
  2. With the flat of your fingers press into your breast, feeling for any changes in the breast tissue at both superficial and deep levels.
  3. Follow a pattern to make sure you cover the entire area of your breast. This might be circular, up and down or in segments like the spokes of a wheel. Remember that breast tissue also extends up to the collarbone and in a “tail” leading from the side of your breast up towards your armpit.
  4. Feel around and underneath your nipple and areola.
  5. Continue until you have covered the entire breast and then repeat on the other side.
Lying down

Lying down

This is usually the best method for larger-breasted women.

  1. Place a pillow or cushion underneath one shoulder and place your hand under your head. (e.g. right shoulder, right hand) This helps to spread the breast tissue against your chest. Position yourself so that your nipple is central and the breast is spread more evenly across your chest.
  2. Using your left hand, with fingers together and flat, check your right breast in a pattern which covers the entire breast area, as described above, including the nipple, areola, and armpit. Swap the pillow to the opposite shoulder and repeat.

This is a very important part of self-checking your breasts as some breast cancers are detected by visual signs such as skin changes, distortion of the breast, new nipple inversion or deviation, dimpling on the skin or crusting on the nipple. Be aware of any discharge coming from the nipple (without squeezing).

Look

It helps to have your hands slippery when checking your breasts. Shower gel or soap will make it easier to slide your hand over your breasts.

  1. Raise one arm behind your head. Hold your fingers together.
  2. With the flat of your fingers press into your breast, feeling for any changes in the breast tissue at both superficial and deep levels.
  3. Follow a pattern to make sure you cover the entire area of your breast. This might be circular, up and down or in segments like the spokes of a wheel. Remember that breast tissue also extends up to the collarbone and in a “tail” leading from the side of your breast up towards your armpit.
  4. Feel around and underneath your nipple and areola.
  5. Continue until you have covered the entire breast and then repeat on the other side.

If you do find something unusual it’s important to see your GP for a proper assessment even if you’ve had a recent mammogram which was reported as normal. Most breast changes are not caused by cancer but any new change should be checked out to make sure.

Your GP will do a clinical breast examination and if any further investigation is needed she/he will refer you to the appropriate place. You can be referred to a public hospital for this or you might choose to go to a private clinic.

If you have been reassured that a breast change is normal but it continues to grow or change, it’s important to go back and have it checked again or seek a second opinion.