Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer globally.1 Like other forms of cancer, breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells,2 caused by DNA mutations. Many different factors can contribute to the mutations that cause cancer. Risk factors include gender, age, and family genetic history.3

Many women later diagnosed with breast cancer say the first sign something was wrong was a new lump in their breasts that they noticed themselves. For this reason, it can be helpful to get familiar with your breasts by conducting self exams at home.4 It is important to know what to do if you discover a lump in your breast. When something changes, you are more likely to notice it and can ask your doctor for advice.

Just keep in mind that many changes you might notice in your breasts are not a sign of cancer. Breasts can change throughout the menstrual cycle and for other reasons. Noticing a change is a starting point for a discussion with a trusted healthcare provider. They can help determine whether other tests are needed. Breast self-exams are not a replacement for recommended mammogram screenings and clinical breast exams by a physician.

The Value of Early Detection

In general, the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the treatment outcomes, both alternative and traditional, are likely to be. Self-exams are one way you might first notice a symptom of breast cancer. Mammograms can also help detect breast cancer early, even before a noticeable lump might grow in a breast.

For women with an average breast cancer risk, here are the current recommendations5 about when to get mammograms:

  • Women ages 40 to 44 can opt for annual mammogram screening if they choose.
  • Women ages 45 to 54 should get annual mammograms.
  • Women ages 55 and older can choose whether to get a mammogram annually or every other year.

If you’ve already had breast cancer, you have a family history of breast cancer, or you have a genetic mutation that increases your breast cancer risk, you probably need more frequent screenings than the schedule above. You might need other kinds of screening tests as well. Talk to your doctor about what makes sense for you.

Read on to learn more about how to conduct a self exam of your breasts at home, and what kinds of changes warrant a conversation with your doctor.

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Recommendations for Breast Self Exams at Home

Ready to start a breast self-exam routine? Below you’ll find all the information you need about when to examine your breasts, how to conduct the exam and what to look for, plus some other tips for setting up a healthy breast exam habit.

Timing and Frequency

Check your breasts about once a month. One approach is to choose the same date each month to help you stay on a regular exam schedule.

Another option is to time your exam with your menstrual cycle. There are a couple of good reasons for this. For menstruating women, your breasts may be tender at certain times during your cycle, as hormone levels change and cause swelling. It’s best to check your breasts when swelling and sensitivity are least likely, typically the week following the end of your period.6 This will make the exam more comfortable and effective.

Timing your self exams with your menstrual cycle ensures that any changes you might notice from one exam to the next aren’t simply due to normal hormonal fluctuations throughout your cycle. This approach works best if you already track your menstrual cycle.

Either approach to timing your breast self exams is fine, and the timing won’t vary too much anyway, since most menstrual cycles are close to a month in length. Just choose whichever option makes it most likely you’ll stick with the routine.

Keep a Record

The best way to catch any changes from one month to the next, and communicate these changes clearly to your healthcare provider, is to keep a written record of your breast self-exams. Choose a reliable place you’ll remember to jot down a few notes about your observations each month.

Start with a Visual Exam

It’s easiest to do this portion of the exam in front of a mirror. If you can’t see well, you might ask a close family member or friend to help you.

To conduct a thorough visual exam of your breasts, stand still and face forward, without wearing a shirt or bra. Look in the mirror for changes in your breasts’ size and shape, any changes to the nipples including inversion, and skin changes like puckering. Note whether your breasts are symmetrical or different in orientation or size. Many women have asymmetries in their breasts. The point is just to observe what’s normal for you so you can note any changes.

Continue to visually examine your breasts with your arms lifted above your head and the palms of your hands together.

Now flex your chest muscles by bringing your hands to your hips and pressing downward, as you continue the visual check of your breasts.

Finally, use your hands to raise your breasts up and observe whether the ridges running along the lower edges of your breasts are symmetrical.7

Next Conduct a Manual Exam

You can do this part of the exam either in the shower or lying down on your back. It’s up to you. The technique is a bit different depending on which option you choose.

Whichever method you select, take your time and go slowly. The purpose of the self exam is to familiarize yourself with what is normal for your body. Remember to use the pads, or flat parts, of your fingers – ideally the middle three fingers together – rather than just the fingertips in order to best notice any changes to how the breast tissue feels.

Option #1: In the Shower

Lather your hands with soap to let your hands glide easily on your skin. Use the pads of several fingers to systematically apply pressure to all areas of your breasts and armpits. Try pressing using varying levels of pressure. Note any areas that feel hard or thick. Squeeze each nipple to check for any discharge.

Option #2: Lying Down

In this position, your breast tissue naturally spreads and thins out, which might make it easier to notice certain changes. Put a pillow under one shoulder on the side you want to check first. Then use the pads of several fingers on the opposite hand to apply varying levels of pressure to your breast. Don’t forget to check the armpit area as well. Again, note anywhere you feel a lump, a knot, or any type of hardening or thickening of the tissue.

Then position the pillow under the other shoulder and conduct the exam on the other side. Squeeze each nipple to see if there is any discharge.8

If You Notice a Lump or Other Changes

If a self-exam leads you to observe a change like a new lump or knot in a breast, it’s natural to be worried. But try not to jump to conclusions. This is not necessarily a sign of cancer. The large majority of lumps discovered during breast self exams are benign, meaning they are not cancerous.9 Many women have harmless breast cysts, for instance. Before you panic, it’s best to discuss changes with your doctor. A self exam alone cannot diagnose breast cancer.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Anytime a self exam reveals a change to your breast or the armpit area, you should feel free to contact your doctor to discuss it. Some changes may be due to normal hormonal variations during the menstrual cycle. Breasts also change with age, and for other reasons.

As you get into a routine with your monthly breast self-exams, you will become more aware of what is typical for your body. You’ll have a record of past observations to compare with anything new you notice. Over time, your greater familiarity with your breasts will make it easier to tell when there’s a change that merits a check-in with your healthcare provider.

That said, there are some changes that you should always contact your doctor about.10 These include:

  • A lump, knot or hardening of tissue
  • Swelling that’s not a familiar symptom of your menstrual cycle
  • Any discharge from a nipple besides breast milk (if you are lactating), especially if the discharge includes any blood
  • Change to the size or shape of a breast
  • Skin changes like dimples, puckers, thickening or redness
  • Swelling of lymph nodes in the armpit area
  • A sore or red nipple

A final note on breast changes. You might wonder what a breast lump feels like. Lumps can vary widely depending on what has caused them, where they are located and other factors. They might be hard or soft, easy or difficult to move, painful when you apply pressure or not painful at all. They can be different sizes and shapes. If you find a lump, write down any observations about it. Be specific and share that information with your doctor.

Follow-up Testing

If you notice a change during a breast self-exam, your doctor will likely want to learn more about the change and what’s causing it. Additional tests could include a clinical breast exam performed by your doctor, a mammogram, an ultrasound, or other imaging like an MRI. A biopsy is a procedure where a tiny sample of tissue is taken for lab testing.11 Understanding treatment options just in case

The Bottom Line

Regular breast self exams can be a great way to get to know your body. Keeping a written record of your observations during your regular self exams can help you compare what you notice from one month to the next. If anything changes, you will notice quickly and can communicate that information to your doctor.

Early detection is key to better outcomes if you do develop breast cancer. Breast self exams, along with regular physicals at your primary care provider’s office and recommended mammogram screenings, can all play a role in helping to detect breast cancer as early as possible.

If your self exams lead to a breast cancer diagnosis, the Immunity Therapy Center is here to help. We offer an alternative approach to breast cancer treatment. We emphasize personal relationships and individual attention, and take pride in offering the best possible patient experience.

At the Immunity Therapy Center, we believe that your outlook impacts the outcome of your treatment. We have found that patients with a positive attitude and hope for the future tend to have greater treatment success.

We personalize breast cancer treatment to the specific needs of each patient and ensure one-on-one daily contact with Dr. Bautista. We ensure all your questions are answered and your care is constantly evaluated.

If you are facing a breast cancer diagnosis and are interested in learning more about alternative treatment options, contact the Immunity Therapy Center today.


Written By: Dr. Adolfo Carrillo

Dr. Adolfo Carrillo is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.

Dr. Carrillo has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista for over 5 years as a treating physician at the Immunity the Immunity Therapy Center. Dr. Carrillo is a charismatic Doctor whose knowledge and commitment to patient care and bringing healing to patients is a valuable asset to our center.



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  3. “What is Breast Cancer? An Expert Explains.” Mayo Clinic, Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  4. “Breast Self Exam for Breast Awareness.” Mayo Clinic, Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  5. “American Cancer Society Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer.” American Cancer Society, Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  6. “Breast Self Exam for Breast Awareness.” Mayo Clinic, Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  7. “Breast Self Exam for Breast Awareness.” Mayo Clinic, Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  8. “Breast Self-Exam.” National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  9. “Breast Self-Exam.” National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  10. “Breast Self-Awareness.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
  11. “How Is Breast Cancer Diagnosed?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed 24 Jan. 2023.
February 12, 2023

Dr. Carlos Bautista is a Board Certified Medical Doctor. He received his Medical Degree from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and has more than 20 years of experience working with Alternative Medicine to treat cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic degenerative diseases, and infectious diseases. He opened Immunity Therapy Center in 2007 with the goal of providing the highest quality medical care for more than 5,000 patients.

At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.