How to Check Breast Cancer at Home?

How to Check Breast Cancer at Home

Introduction to Breast cancer

The breast is made up of tissues starting from fatty to dense ones. There is a network of lobes and every lobe is made of tiny and tube sort of forms known as lobules. These lobules consist of milk glands. There are tiny ducts that connect the lobes and help carry milk from lobes to nipples.

Introduction to Breast cancer

Cancer occurs when the cells of the breast change and grow to form a tumour.

Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body through blood vessels and/ or lymph vessels. There are different stages of breast cancer that determines how much cancer has spread in the body.

 Breast cancer can spread to nearby lymph but it can also spread to other areas such as the lungs, liver, brain and bones. This usually happens at the most advanced stage of cancer. Breast cancer can occur again and can recur again in the same breast or some other parts of the body.

What is a breast self-exam

A breast self-exam is a method that women can use to examine their breasts. You need to look and feel your breasts regularly so that you can notice if there is anything abnormal.

How to Check Breast Cancer at Home

A breast self-exam can help one understand any symptoms of breast cancer. If the cancer is detected early the chances of survival are reduced. Self-exams are very important for the health of the breast. However, in no way should it replace the screening tests necessary or recommended by your doctor

Those women who are still having a regular period should perform a breast self-exam right after the period is over. Again those who have stopped menstruating and those who have irregular periods can pick one day for each month. A breast self-exam will take only a few minutes and can easily be added to your daily routine. One can perform a breast self-exam at any time of the day – During undressing, lying in bed, or taking a shower.


BSE is performed on the tissues of the breast and has a lot of advantages. Some of these are given below –

  • A breast self-exam can help a woman keep a check and control their health.
  • It helps one to understand what her own breast tissue is like.
  • It is a very simple and non-invasive sort of procedure.
  • The self-exam is easy to perform and can help one to detect any sort of cancer at the earlier stages compared to someone who doesn’t perform these exams.

How to do a breast self-exam?

How to do a breast self-exam?

A breast self-exam is essential and should be performed on a daily basis to keep track of your health condition. As it is always there in the mind of the people that how to test breast cancer at home, how to check breast cancer at home, how to self examine for breast cancer so there are step by step guide that can help you to perform how to check breast cancer at home by yourself.

In the mirror 

Stand in front of the mirror with your bra and shirt removed. Put your arms down by the side and look for changes such as dimpling, bulging of the skin, puckering, any sort of redness, rash or even inverted nipple.

Next, you need to raise your arms high over your head and again look for the same thing. Finally, put your hands on your hips and press firmly to make your chest muscles flex. Take a look for any sort of changes and be sure to check both of your breasts.

In the shower

Breast self examination can be performed even while you are in the shower. You can easily identify the breast masses when the skin is moist. You need to raise your right arm and with soapy hands press the breast tissue. Check your right one with the left hand. Use the circles in a pattern of up and down motion to figure out any unusual thing.

Inspection when standing up

Remove your shirt and bra and use your right hand to examine the left breast. Using the pads of your three middle fingers press on every part of the breast. Using light pressure and then medium and firm pressure. Look out for any lumps or thick spots or any sort of other changes. A form of the circular pattern will help make sure that you hit every spot. Finally, press the tissue under the arm. Make sure to check the areola region as well and then squeeze the nipple to check if there is any sort of discharge. Repeat the same steps on the other side of the body.

Inspection while lying down

As you lay down the tissues of your breast spread off evenly. So one can feel the changes especially if one has heavy breasts. You need to lie down and then put a pillow under your right shoulder. Place the right arm behind your head. Again, by applying the pads of your fingers press the different parts of the tissue and under your arm. Next put the pillow on the other side and check the armpit and breast.

Tips for self-breast exam

Tips for self-breast exam

Perform your breast self-exam a few days after your period’s end.

The best time to perform a monthly self-breast exam is right after a few days of your period ends and breast swelling or tenderness reduces. The lumps which are formed due to breast cancer don’t cause pain at all. It might not be the same case based on the location and the cellular structure. Most breast lumps are not cancerous so you don’t have to worry about it. However, it is always a good idea to consult a medical practitioner if you notice a lump on the breast.

Symptoms of breast cancer

Symptoms of breast cancer

Most lumps are visible at the early stages of breast cancer. However, there might be other symptoms as well.

Breast size changes

It is always not possible to see a visible breast lump. At times the lump is so small that it is not visible to the eyes. But you can always see the changes in size of the breast. A little swelling can cause a change in the size of the breast.

Lump in breast

There are varying reasons why breast lumps form. Most of the lumps are non-cancerous. These lumps can form in females in case of breast cancer.

Nipple retraction

An inverted nipple is a common symptom of breast cancer. Often people develop nipples that turn inside instead of facing outwards. 

Itchy breasts

Breasts can be itchy and swollen. It would be kind of tender to the touch.

Stages of breast cancer 

Stages of breast cancer

It is possible for the doctor to predict the stage of cancer by checking the size of the tumour and by checking if it has spread to lymph or any other body parts.

Usually, the stages range from 0 to 4. Every stage has some subcategory as well. Every substage has certain characteristics of a tumour.

Stage 0

Also known as ductal carcinoma in situ. The cancerous cells are within ducts and can spread to tissues around them.

Stage 1

The tumour is up to 2 cm across. It usually does not affect any of the lymph nodes or there are other sorts of small groups of cancer cells in lymph nodes.

Stage 2

This tumour is 2 cm. It spreads to all the nearby nodes. It is 2 to 5 cm long and spreads to the other lymph nodes.

Stage 3

The tumour is 5 cm and spreads to other lymph nodes as well. The tumour is more than 5 cm in length and has spread to several other nodes or lymph nodes.

Stage 4

Cancer easily spreads to other distant organs like bones, liver and even the brain or lungs.

 Risks factors to consider

Reproductive history

Early menstruation or late menopause

 Treatment of breast cancer



Common FAQs of breast cancer 

What does a lump in your breast feel like?

A painless, hard, irregularly shaped breast tumour that differs from surrounding breast tissue could indicate breast cancer. Like the skin of an orange, the skin surrounding the lump may seem red, dimpled, or pitted. You may notice a change in the size and form of your breasts, as well as discharge from the nipple.

 What are 3 essential steps in breast self-examination?

 The three major steps involved in breast self-examination are as follows:- 

  •       Inspection
  •       Palpation
  •       Examination of the armpits

How do you check your breasts for lumps?

Follow the below steps to help you check how to check breast cancer at home:-

  • Stand in front of the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips, looking at your breasts. Skin that is dimpling, puckering or bulging.
  • Raise your arms and look for the same changes as before.
  • Examine your nipples in the mirror for any symptoms of fluid leaking from one or both of them (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
  • Keep your fingers flat and together while applying a firm, smooth touch to the first few finger pads of your hand. Make a quarter-sized circular motion with your hands.
  • From your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage, cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side.

How do you know what breast cancer feels like?

Breast cancer tumours have strong, angular edges and are stiff. “They had the texture of boulders rather than grapes.” A tumour, unlike a cyst, will not be smooth.

 What are the top risks factors of breast cancer?

Risk factors of breast cancer can be many. Some of the primary reasons are-

  • Genetic mutation
  • Having dense breast
  • Getting older
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Reproductive history
  • Previous treatment using radiation
Dr. Vikas Goswami, M.B.B.S. from MAMC, M.D. in Internal Medicine, ECMO, and D.N.B. in Medical Oncology, is a Senior Consultant and experienced Oncologist with 17 years of experience in the field of medicine. He is an excellent speaker and presented his knowledge of Oncology at national & international conferences and workshops. Book an Appointment View Details

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