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Breast Self-Exam

How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

Patient Comments

Breast self-exam (BSE) is one way a woman can track any changes in her breasts, and adult women are encouraged to perform monthly breast self-examinations. Even though breast self-examination is not recommended as a screening tool for breast cancer (routine mammography is recommended for breast cancer detection), every woman should become familiar with how her breasts feel and look so she can more easily identify changes she feels or sees in her breasts. Any changes in your breasts (nipple discharge, change in size, color, lumps, etc.) should be discussed with your health-care professional as soon as possible (if you find changes in your breast it does not necessarily mean it is cancer).

If you still have menstrual periods, perform the examination a few days after your period has ended. During this time, your breasts are less tender and less lumpy. If you are not menstruating (such as in menopause), breast self-examination should be performed on the same day each month.

Use the following techniques to perform breast self-examination. Choose the method that is best for you.

Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs

Patient Comments

If you notice any of the following changes in your breasts, notify your health-care professional as soon as possible.

Possible signs and symptoms of breast cancer include:

Changes in the nipple:

  • Tenderness
  • Change in appearance
  • Nipple that is slightly depressed inward
  • Scaly
  • Red
  • Discharge
  • Rash

Changes in the appearance of the breast:

  • A new lump or lumps in the breast (not all lumps are cancerous
  • Unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Dimpling or puckering on the breast
  • Unexplained swelling or shrinking of the breast
  • Unexplained pain in one spot that will not resolve
  • Redness, warmth, or scaly skin on the breast
  • A hard lump, knot, or thickening inside the breast or underarm
  • Itchy or scaly skin on the breast
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/15/2014
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