The best way to find breast lumps that may be cancer is to do 3 things:
  • Have regular mammograms.
  • Have your doctor check your breasts.
  • Check your breasts yourself every month.
Doing all of these things gives you the best chance to find cancer as early as you can. Finding breast cancer early makes treatment much easier and more effective. More than 90 out of 100 women whose breast cancer is found early will be cured.

Average lump sizes

Changes to look for in your breasts:
  • Any new lump (which may or may not be painful or tender)
  • Unusual thickening of your breasts
  • Sticky or bloody discharge from your nipples
  • Any changes in the skin of your nipples or breasts, such as puckering or dimpling
  • An unusual increase in the size of one breast
  • One breast unusually lower than the other

How do I check for lumps?

Start by standing in front of a mirror. Look at your breasts with your arms at your side, with your arms raised behind your head, and with your arms on your hips and your chest muscles flexed.

Examination in front of mirror

Next, lie down with a pillow under your left shoulder. Put your left hand behind your head and feel your left breast with the pads of the 3 middle fingers on your right hand. Start at the outer edge and work around your breast in circles, getting closer to your nipple with each circle. After you've finished checking your breast, squeeze your nipple gently and look for discharge (fluid coming out of the nipple).

Examination lying down

Do the same thing to your right breast with a pillow under your right shoulder.

Pattern of examination

Be sure to include the area up to your collarbone and out to your armpit. You have lymph nodes in this area. Cancer can spread to lymph node tissue.

Lymph nodes