Breast Self-Exam

Beginning at age 20, all women should examine their breasts once a month – ideally at the same time each month, 7-10 days after the beginning of the menstrual period. You can learn this procedure from your doctor, nurse or clinic. A thorough self-check involves:

Standing before a mirror or in the shower:
With the right arm raised behind your head and using your left hand, knead the right breast in either a circular, up-and-down or wedge fashion. Repeat for the other side. You are looking for lumps or thickened tissue that feels different from the last time you checked.

Lying down:
With the right arm raised behind your head and using your left hand, knead the right breast. Repeat on the other side. Again, you are looking for lumps or thickened tissue that feels different from the last time you checked.

Next, look carefully in the mirror for visible changes. Squeeze your nipple gently to check for discharge. See your doctor immediately if you detect changes or lumps in your breast, even if they cause you no discomfort. A lump may be only a benign (non-cancerous) cyst, but your doctor must make that determination.

In addition to the self-exam, women between the ages of 20 and 40 should have a physical breast exam by a health practitioner every three years. Women over the age of 40 should have a physical exam by a health practitioner every year.

The American Cancer Society provides a step-by-step approach for a breast self-exam on its website.

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