Breast cancer, also known as malignant breast neoplasm, is a cancer originating in the breast tissue. It usually starts developing in the inner lining of the milk ducts and is known as ductal carcinomas. Another variety of cancer originates from the lobules that supply the ducts and are termed lobular carcinomas.

There are several types of breast cancers with various stages, aggressiveness and genetic makeup. The chances of survival vary greatly depending upon factors like the point of discovery, reaction to treatment etc. While mammography is the clinical way to examine cancer in the breasts, healthcare specialists suggest that women above 40 should conduct regular self-examinations. Given below is an eleven-step procedure to conduct this self-examination:

1) Undress and stand before a large mirror and look at your breasts. Let your arms hang by your side and check for any changes in shape, size or position. Remember that breasts are not usually of the same size. Check for dimpling, puckering of the skin, sores or discoloration. Also check the nipples for sores, peeling or a change in direction.

2) Place your hands on your hips and press down to tighten the chest muscles below the breasts. Check the outer part of your breast by turning from side to side. Bend towards the mirror, roll your shoulders and elbows forward and look for any changes in shape as the breasts fall forward.

3) Clasping your hands behind your head and press your elbows forward. Again inspect the outer portions of the breasts by moving from side to side. Check the borders of the breast by lifting them with your hand.

4) Place your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and gently pull outwards to check for any discharge. Repeat the same with the other breast and check for any fluid.

5) While in the shower, clasp one of your breasts lightly after getting your hands slipper with water and soap. Check for any lumps or thickening in the area near your underarm. You can place your left arm on the hip and use the right to feel the left armpit and left breast. Repeat with the other breast and do not forget to check in the area below your collarbone.

6) Spread out the breast tissue by raising one arm behind your head. Press the flat part of your fingers against the breast and rub it up and down to check for lumps. Move your finger from the bra line to the collarbone to cover the entire breast before moving to the other.

7) Placing a small pillow under your right shoulder, lie down with your right hand spread behind the head. Use the left hand to feel the upper portion of your right breast. Remember to use the fingers and the palm and use body lotion to make it smoother.

8) While lying down on the bed, imagine your breast to be the face of a clock. Start moving from 12 o'clock towards 1 o'clock in small circular motions till you complete the entire surface area of the breast. Keep the fingers flat and do not remove contact with the breast. Start from the circumference and move in concentric circles towards the nipples.

9) And finally, examine your nipples by placing your fingers flat on top of it and feeling beneath the nipple. Try pressing it inward and if it does not move back easily, consult a physician.