Performing self breast exams should begin when a woman is in her twenties according to the Cancer.org website. Early detection could save your life, that's why it is so important for all women to check their breast on a monthly basis beginning at age 20. This allows you to become familiar with your breast and make it easier for you do detect changes if there are any.
There are 3 ways to do a self breast exam looking in the mirror, while showering, and of course laying flat on your back and feeling the breast. The WebMD site explains why you need to perform all of these ways of examining the breasts. Simply the breasts look and feel different in different positions.
In the mirror: Look
Stand in front of a mirror topless in a well lit room.
Examine your breasts visually, first with arms at your sides. Next place your hands firmly on your hips and tighten your chest muscles. Then bend forward in the mirror allowing your breasts to fall. Now place your heads behind your head and check your nipples from side to side. Also look at the undersides of your breast, lifting them if necessary.
In the shower: Feel
Check armpits are breasts for any lumps or thickenings. Examine your chest area from bra line to collarbone. Raise one arm over your head and use the other hand to examine the opposite breast. Use an up and down motion from bra line to collarbone and repeat on the other side.
Lying down: Feel in a circle
Lie down and place one arm behind your back and use the other hand to examine the other breast using a circular motion. Start at 12 o'clock and move toward 1 o'clock in small circular motions.
Continue around the entire circle until you reach 12 o'clock again. Keep your fingers flat and in constant contact with your breast. When the circle is complete, move in one inch toward the nipple and complete another circle around the clock. Feel the entire breast. Make sure to feel the upper outer areas that extend into your armpit for any lumps or thickenings. Also push gently on your nipple, it should easily be moved.
It's recommended to do a self breast exam monthly, usually a few days after your period or the first of the month if you no longer menstruate. Remember to report any changes to your doctor as soon as possible. Not all lumps are cancer but early detection is crucial if it is. You can sign up for free email reminders of when to do your monthly exams at the Bright Pink website.