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Symptoms and Signs of Breast Self-Exam

Doctor's Notes on Breast Self-Exam

Breast self-exam (BSE) is one way a woman can track abnormal changes in her breasts. Breast self-examination is not recommended as a screening tool for breast cancer (routine mammography is recommended for breast cancer detection), but every woman should become familiar with how her breasts look and feel to identify breast changes such as nipple discharge, change in size, color, lumps, etc. A doctor can instruct you on the correct way to do a breast self-exam. If you find anything irregular, contact a doctor for an evaluation.

Symptoms of breast cancer include changes in the nipple and changes in appearance of the breast. Nipple changes include tenderness, change in appearance, nipple that is slightly depressed inward, scaliness, redness, discharge, and rash. Changes in the appearance of the breast include a new mass or masses in the breast, unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast, dimpling or puckering on the skin of the breast, unexplained swelling or shrinking of the breast, unexplained pain in one area that is persistent and does not change position; redness, warmth, or scaly skin on the breast; a hard mass, knot, or thickening inside the breast or underarm; and itching on the surface of the breast.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/21/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.