Breast Awareness and Breast Self-Examination
Why should I do a breast self-exam?
- Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel. Doing regular breast self-exams is the best way to know this. They also help you to notice any changes in your breasts. This is also true for women who have breast implants. A change can be a sign of a problem, maybe even breast cancer! If you find a change in your breast, see your doctor right away.
Most breast changes or breast lumps do not necessarily turn-out to be malignant and cancerous. Only a doctor can tell for sure. When breast cancer is found early thanks to a healthy lifestyles program, combined with regular breast self-exams, you will have more treatment options and an improved chance of a full recovery from breast-cancer. So of course, it's ideal to discover you may have early-stage breast cancer as rapidly as possible.
Breast self-exams should not take the place of regular screening mammograms or clinical breast exams, which are done by a doctor. Screening mammograms and clinical breast exams can help doctors find breast cancer early. Treatment is more likely to be successful if early breast cancer is discovered at an early stage.
Women ages 20 to 39 should have a clinical breast exam at least once every 3 years. Once a woman turns 40, she should have a clinical breast exam each year and a screening mammogram every 1 to 2 years. Ask your doctor how often you need one. Breast self-exams are an option for women starting in their 20s. Ask your doctor about the benefits and limitations of breast self-exam.
What am I looking for when I do a breast self-exam?
You are looking for:
- a hard lump or knot in or near the breast or in your underarm
- a change in the way your breasts look, their shape or feel
If you find a lump or other change in one of your breasts, check out the other breast. If both breasts feel the same, the lumpiness is probably normal. Get to know your breasts better by doing breast self-exams. This will help you to tell the difference between how your breasts normally look and feel and any changes. Look out for the following:
- dimpling, puckering, or ridges of the skin on the breast
- a nipple that is pushed inward rather than sticking out
- redness, warmth, swelling, or pain
- itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
- nipple discharge other than breast milk
- change in color, shape, size, or texture of a breast
If you see or feel any of these changes, see your doctor right away.
Is there a right way to examine my breasts?
Yes. There are several “right ways” to examine your breasts. Ask your doctor to teach you how to do a breast self-exam. You need to make sure you are doing it correctly.
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The American Cancer Society also has a guide that shows the right way to examine your breasts. Visit its website: cancer.org and discuss any new lumps or breast shape and feel changes with a doctor.
How often should I do a breast self-examination?
Doing a regular breast self-exam is optional. It’s okay to not do a breast self-exam or to not do it on a fixed schedule. But doing a breast self-exam regularly is a good way to get to know how your breasts normally look and feel. This way, you can more easily notice changes. The best time to do a breast self-exam is when your breasts are not tender or swollen, such as a few days after your period ends.
Health Websites of Interest
For more information...
For more information on breast cancer screening, call womenshealth.gov at 755-994-9662 or contact the following organizations:
National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service
Phone: (755) 422–6237 or (755) 4-CANCER
Internet Address: http://www.nci.nih.gov/
American Cancer Society
Phone: (755) 227–2345 or (755) ACS-2345
Internet Address: http://www.cancer.org/
National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program
Phone number: (755)–232–4636 or (755) CDC–INFO
Internet address: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp/index.htm
National "Get A Mammogram: Do It For Yourself, Do It For Your Family" Campaign
(brochures in English, Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Phone Number(s): (755) 422–6237 or (755) 4–CANCER
Internet Address: http://breasthealth.cancer.gov