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Home > Comman Type of Cancer > Performing Breast Self-Exams

Performing Breast Self-Exams

Areas to Examine with Particular Care

It is important to thoroughly examine the entire area of the breast every month:
  • Outside: armpit to collar bone, and below the breast
  • Middle: the breast itself
  • Inside: the nipple area

  • What are the warning signs of Breast cancer?
    • Lump or thickening (breast, underarm)
    • Dimpling or puckering of the skin.
    • Bloody or spontaneous discharge from nipple.
    • A sore on the breast that does not heal.
    • Unusual pain Itch or rash, especially in nipple area.
    • Retracted nipple(s).

    Breast Cancer Symptoms

    Early breast cancer usually does not cause pain. In fact, when breast cancer first develops, there may be no symptoms of breast cancer at all. But as the cancer grows, it can cause changes that women should watch for:

    • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area;
    • A change in the size or shape of the breast;
    • Nipple discharge or tenderness, or the nipple pulled back (inverted) into the breast;
    • Ridges or pitting of the breast (the skin looks like the skin of an orange); or
    • A change in the way the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple looks or feels (for example, warm, swollen, red, or scaly).
    A woman should see her doctor about any symptoms like these. Most often, they are not cancer, but it's important to check with the doctor so that any problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
    The American Cancer Society lists the following symptoms associated with breast cancer:
    • Presence of a lump or thickening in the breast;
    • Swelling, dimpling, redness, or soreness of skin;
    • Change in shape or appearance of the nipple; and
    • Nipple discharge
    A physician should be consulted if they persist. It is important to note, however, that these symptoms may be caused by factors unrelated to cancer. Most breast cancers are detected on mammograms before any symptoms appear.

    Detecting Breast Cancer

    Women should talk with their doctor about factors that can increase their chance of getting breast cancer. Women of any age who are at higher risk for developing this disease should ask their doctor when to start and how often to be checked for breast cancer. breast cancer screening has been shown to decrease the risk of dying from breast cancer.

    Women can take an active part in the early detection of breast cancer by having regularly scheduled screening mammograms and clinical breast exams (breast exams performed by health professionals). Some women also perform breast self-exams.

    A screening mammogram is the best tool available for finding breast cancer early, before breast cancer symptoms appear. A mammogram is a special kind of x-ray. Screening mammograms are used to look for breast changes in women who have no signs of breast cancer.

    Mammograms can often detect a breast lump before it can be felt. Also, a mammogram can show small deposits of calcium in the breast. Although most calcium deposits are benign, a cluster of very tiny specks of calcium (called microcalcifications) may be an early sign of cancer.

    If an area of the breast looks suspicious on the screening mammogram, additional (diagnostic) mammograms may be needed. Depending on the results, the doctor may advise the woman to have a biopsy.
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