Self-Breast Exam

Jean Richardson-Smith
Physician Assistant in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Naval Medical Center
Portsmouth, Virginia

I have anecdotally noticed – in most recent years- a trend. Younger patients are being diagnosed with breast cancer, and patients are finding out about breast cancer sooner than their annual or bi-annual mammograms.

I attribute this trend to more sensitive testing leading to earlier detection, as well as a more educated and informed population in regard to self-breast exams.  Just in the last two weeks, two patients have reported finding a lump or in one case, her husband finding a lump in the breast. One patient was not due for mammogram for six months, the other due for a mammogram in four months. Neither woman had any known family history of breast cancer, nor any of the routine risk factors. Both had early enough diagnosis and treatment of a potentially aggressive type of cancer to have a great prognosis.

Regardless of all of the fantastic technology that is available now, and just about to make a breakthrough, there is no substitute for a woman or man getting to know their own breasts and purposing monthly to set five minutes aside to perform a SBE (self-breast exam) in the shower or while lying in bed. A Medical Provider will never know the nuances of a new ripple, nipple retraction, changing skin texture, nipple discharge or lump like the woman or man who experiences these sometimes subtle findings.  By the time the breast buds are beginning on a pubescent girl or once a boy begins puberty instruction on SBE can begin. Using the tools below will make this a habit for all just like brushing your teeth or cutting finger or toenails!

Male Self Breast Exam

  • In The Shower
  • Check each breast one at a time.
  • Use your right hand fingers to check your left breast and your left hand fingers to check your right breast.
  • With your fingers flat against the breast, press firmly in small clockwise circles.
  • In The Mirror
  • Lying Down
  • Place the three-finger salute on the outside of your left breast region and press down gently.

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