Prevention & Early Detection

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Breast Self Exams

It is normal to have some lumpiness or thickening in your breasts. By examining your breasts once each month, you will learn what is normal for you and notice when any changes do occur. Some women find that doing a daily or weekly self-exam works better for them. They become familiar with their breasts at all phases of their menstrual cycle. The more you examine your breasts, the better you will know what is normal for you. Your "job" isn't just to find lumps, but to notice if there are any changes.

  • In the shower - With your fingers flat, gently move the pads of your fingertips over every part of each breast. Use your right hand to examine the left breast and your left hand to examine the right breast. Check for any thickening, hard lump or knot.
  • In front of a mirror - Holding your arms at your sides, look at your breasts. Raise your arms overhead and look for any changes in the shape of either breast, or any swelling, dimpling, or changes in the nipples.
  • Lying down - To examine your right breast, put a pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right hand behind your head. Then, using the fingers of your left hand held flat, press your right breast gently in small circular motions around an imaginary clock face. Begin at the outermost top of your right breast for 12 o'clock, then move to 10 o'clock, and so on, until you get back to 12o'clock. Each breast will have a normal ridge of firm tissue.

Then move in 1 inch toward the nipple. Keep circling to examine every part of your breast, including the nipple. Repeat the procedure on the left breast with a pillow under the left shoulder and your left hand behind your head. Finally, squeeze the nipple of each breast gently between the thumb and index finger. Any clear or bloody discharge should be reported to your physician immediately.