Should You Do a Breast Self-Exam?
Do you know what your breasts look like? Do you know what your breasts feel like? Getting very familiar with what’s normal for you can make a big difference. Even with advanced screening tools available, such as mammograms, some breast cancers are still found through physical exams.
Experts used to recommend that women perform breast self-exams. However, research doesn’t show any clear benefit to following a rigid set of step-by-step instructions for doing them—as long as you’re receiving mammograms. As a result, organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS) no longer recommend doing breast self-exams. Instead, the ACS suggests paying attention to what your breasts look and feel like and contacting your health care provider if you notice any changes.
What to watch for
Report any of these visible changes to your healthcare provider:
The skin of your breast dimples or puckers
Swelling of part of your breast
Redness or flaky skin on your nipple or breast
Change in the size or shape of your breast
Changes with your nipple, such as pushing inward instead of sticking out
Nipple discharge (including blood) other than breast milk
Contact your provider if you feel any of these changes:
A new lump or hard knot inside your breast or armpit
An area that feels thick inside your breast
Pain in your breast that doesn’t go away
The next step
If you notice a lump or change, don’t get alarmed. These signs usually don’t mean that you have breast cancer. There are common noncancerous breast conditions that can cause symptoms, too. The only way to find out for sure is by making an appointment with your provider to get checked.