How-to Learn: 3 Ways to do a Breast Self-Exam in Minutes
Breast Cancer Survivors

Treatment Care & Tips

How-To: Breast Self-Exams

One in 8 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Monthly self-exams can help you detect any issues early. Adult women of all ages are encouraged to do a breast self-exam each month. This is very important because 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump.

While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your doctor if there are any changes.


How-To: Breast Self-Exams

1. In the Shower

To begin your breast exam, lift one arm up and rest your hand on your head. Check the entire breast and armpit area pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure with the flat part of your three middle fingers. Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, hardened knot or any other breast changes.

Breast Self-Exam in the Shower


2. In Front of a Mirror

Visually check your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the shape, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do– so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

Breast Self-Exam in Front of a Mirror


3. Lying Down

Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

Breast Self-Exam Laying Down


Are Breast Self-Exams Enough?

Mammograms can detect tumors before they can be felt, making screenings key for early detection. But when combined with regular medical care and mammograms, breast self-exams can help women know what is normal for them so they can report any changes to their doctor.


Talk to your doctor right away if you notice any changes in your breasts. But don’t panic — 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous.


Getting a mammogram is important and is one of the many women’s health services that Gateway Health plan covers. You don’t need a referral for a screening mammogram, as long as the provider accepts Gateway Health insurance. Be sure to check when scheduling your appointment that your doctor or screening center accepts Gateway Health. However, if you need any follow up testing, you will need a referral. Your doctor can take care of that for you.


If you need help scheduling your mammogram or have any questions about your Gateway Health coverage, call our Member Services department at 1-800-392-1147, (TTY users, call 711 or 1-800-654-5984).


Hours of operation:

  • Monday through Friday (8 a.m. – 8 p.m.)


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