Early detection of breast cancer ups your odds of curing the disease. Follow these directions to examine yourself. The best time to do the exam is seven to ten days after the first day of your period.

1. Lie on your back with one arm behind your head. If you have large breasts, put a pillow under your back; this allows the breasts to spread out evenly.

2. Use your three middle fingers and, starting in the armpit area, move them downward little by little until they are below the breast. Then move your fingers slightly toward the middle and slowly move them back up. Go up and down until you cover the whole area. Movement should be a consistent pattern of search that covers the entire breast.

3. Do this three times and probe with more depth on each pass.

4. Learn the anatomical landmarks of your breast and what is "normal" for you.

5. If you find what feels like an abnormal lump or thickening, contact your clinician and set up a professional exam. A breast cancer tumor is fixed in the skin and feels as hard as a rock.

Source: Sherry Goldman, RN, NP, UCLA Breast Center.