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Self Breast Examination for Early Breast Cancer Detection | Breast Scan Exam

Updated on March 24, 2012


A couple years ago my family experienced the trials and tribulations of our mother being diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ). Just the word 'Cancer' is scary. Though, when it happens to you it is shocking. She had regular mammograms, performed self-exams, and never missed an annual physical with OB/GYN. There were no apparent indications that cancer would ever occur. She had no lumps, no symptoms, and all the mammogram tests were normal; until the day she found a spot on the front of her shirt. After checking for obvious finger cuts, she realized that thespot was coming from under the shirt. You can imagine how you would feel if this scary scene were happening to you. Yes, there was a discharge. Over the next six months, she would undergo test after test and suffer tremendous emotional upset while the doctors determined her fate and diagnosed her course of treatment. It was explained that she dodged a bullet. She was lucky she experienced this particular symptom. It alerted her to seek a doctor's advice of more than one doctor. It also likely saved her life as it prevented the cancer from progressing into a higher stage and spreading before it was eventually detected. I asked her permission to write this piece and received her blessing. She asked I mention that it is imperative to be your own advocate. Be informed by asking lots of questions and understand the process of diagnosis. Not every doctor has every answer, sometimes it takes a team of doctors to get through this process.

My Mother taking the Bull by the horns


Early cancer detection is crucial as the cancer could likely metastasize to the bones, liver, skin and lungs. It has been two years now. My mother has taken the proverbial bull my the horns and recovered from a partial mastectomy. She did not have to undergo radiation therapy nor take the cancer prevention pill. The cancer had not come from anywhere else in the body. It was contained in the breast ducts; though when biopsied, it was determined as the fast growing and invasive type. It was caught in time; however, the best course of treatment was a complete removal of the breast. She opted for removal. The scarring is both physical and emotional. It takes time once the physical healing has taken its course to begin the process of healing the soul. After her visit to Texas this past Christmas, I can say she is well on the road to full recovery and is savoring every day while living out her retirement years in the peaceful and adventurous Outer Banks, North Carolina coast. You go Mom, we are all so proud of you!!

What is a breast self- exam and How do I do it?

The breast self-exam is a method used to check your breast for slight changes that would alert you to go see your doctor for further examination. Looking and feeling your breast regularly can save your life. When breast cancer is detected early, your survival is greatly improved. Review the breast self- exam feeds for demonstration.

Looking at yourself in the mirror: Come to know the normal shape of your breasts. Do you see lumps, puckering, discolorations, sores, dimpling, or anything else you might be suspicious about. Are your nipples cracked and peeling, do you have discharge, have they changed direction, or are there any sores? Now put your hands on your sides and tighten your chest muscles. Turn around and inspect again. Bend forward and change positions with your breasts falling forward, do you see any changes that are suspicious or look strange. Clasping your hands behind your head, do the same routine. If you have larger breasts, you may need to life them up and look underneath as well. You may need to apply pressure with your fingertips around each nipple to check for discharge or soreness.


While in the shower: After reviewing the self-exam demonstration link, carefully examine yourself with a soapy, slippery rotation of your fingertips while checking for lumps on both breasts and armpit areas also being aware of any thickening.

While lying down: After reviewing the self-exam demonstration link, put a small pillow underneath the shoulder blade and proceed from the inside around the nipple outward until you have totally checked the entire breast area to include the armpits.

If you feel anything suspicious while performing examinations in any of the above positions, contact your doctor for an appointment not wait to see if it will go away. It is better to be safe...having your doctor tell you there is nothing to worry about than to have a late diagnosis of terminal cancer.

Here are the locations where tumors are more likely to be found. Divide breast into four quadrants going clockwise. Almost 50% occur in the upper outer quandrant toward the armpit where doctors refer to as the "tail" of the breast.

41% upper outer quandrant

14% upper inner quandrant

5% lower inner quandrant

6% lower outewr quandrant

34% in the area behind the nipple


Article from American Cancer Society: The Importance of Finding Breast Cancer Early

The goal of screening exams for early breast cancer detection is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms. Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease, such as cancer, in people who do not have any symptoms. Early detection means using an approach that allows earlier diagnosis of breast cancer than otherwise might have occurred.

Breast cancers that are found because they are causing symptoms tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are some of the most important factors in predicting the prognosis (outlook) of a woman with this disease.

Most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer save many thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests. Following the American Cancer Society's guidelines for the early detection of breast cancer improves the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and treated successfully.

Last Medical Review: 09/15/2010
Last Revised: 01/04/2011

Article from


Tools for Screening/Diagnosing Breast Cancer

Breast Exam - both by self atleast monthly and by doctor annually.

Digital Mammogram - new digital quality is exceptionally sharper and does not require the breast to be compressed like the previous machines. If you have implants, digital mammograms are the way to go. Lower radiation doses, reduced breast compression and better images; that's for me alright. This test detects calcifications in the ductal areas that might be missed with an MRI.

Biopsy - cells are removed from suspicious area to be determined if cancerous. sometimes a node is removed if suspected.

Ultrasound - this test uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images to examine breast tissue.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) uses radiofrequency waves to create detailed cross sectional iamges of the breasts. It identifies tumors and may be missed by a mammogram.

PET/CT (positron Emmisson Tomography/Computed Tomography): A CT scan generates 3D images of the breasts while PET scan accurately pinpoints the location of cancerous cells.


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    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great article

    • marshacanada profile image


      10 years ago from Vancouver BC

      Good informative hub


    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks Susan. Prayers be with you too and are also a surviver!!!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great information. So important to do regularly do a self breast exam. This is how I found all of mine.


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