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Breast Exams

In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month will be sharing articles and resources to help raise awareness about the impact of breast cancer. Breast self-exams, or BSEs, are extremely helpful measures in detecting abnormalities and sometimes even catching cancer in its earliest stages. Clinical exams, breast self-exams (BSEs), and mammograms should all be done on a regular basis to see if there are any changes in the breast tissue that could indicate breast cancer or other potentially dangerous disorders.

Clinical Exams and Mammograms

The American Cancer Society recommends clinical breast exams every three years for women between 20 and 40, and annually for women 40 and older. Starting at age 45, healthy women should have yearly mammograms.

Breast Tissue Changes

Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following changes to your breast or nipple tissue while doing a BSE:

  • Lumps
  • Dimpling, red or scaly skin
  • Nipple discharge or pain

It is normal for breast tissue to change during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, or while taking birth control pills or other hormone therapy. However, if you notice changes at other times in your life, it is strongly suggested that you visit a doctor immediately.

More in-depth information on how to perform a BSE is available at www.komen.org. This website also provides a Breast Self-Awareness Interactive Tool that you can view. Or, check out this diagram on www.breastcancer.org, which illustrates how to perform a thorough self-exam.

Performing Self-exams

In between clinical exams and mammograms, women should complete BSEs to become familiar with the look and feel of their breasts when healthy, so that changes can be detected as early as possible.

  • Lie down and place one arm behind your head.
  • Use the pads of your middle three fingers on the opposite hand to check your breast tissue in overlapping, dime-sized circular motions.
  • Use an up-and-down pattern starting at your underarm and moving all the way to the middle of your breastbone to feel for changes.
  • Standing with your hands on your hips, look in a mirror for changes in size, shape, contour or coloring of your breasts.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional. © 2007-2009. 2012, 2014, 2017-2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

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