Breast Cancer and Self-Exams


Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Screening is vital because early stages of the disease are easier to treat. The American Cancer Society recommends women:

  • Obtain yearly mammography screenings, beginning at age 40
  • Obtain yearly clinical breast exams
  • Check your breasts regularly for lumps
  • Discuss their breast cancer risk with their physician

The American Cancer Society’s guidelines for breast self-exams have changed. Before, it was recommended that women examine their breasts in the shower. Now, they recommend that exams be done lying down so that the breast tissue spreads out more evenly, making it easier to feel all of the tissue. Some women may be uncomfortable with performing the exams, but it’s easier than you think. The more you perform the self-exam, the better your chances of recognizing when something is wrong.

How do I perform a self-exam?

  • Use the pads of the three middle fingers to make dime-sized circular motions moving vertically over each breast.
  • Perform this action up to the collarbone, out to the armpit and down the bottom of the ribs.
  • Stand in front of the mirror with hands on hips to identify any breast abnormalities, such as nipple discharge, scaliness, redness, or changes in shape of the breast.
  • Perform self-exams frequently.
  • Have breasts checked at annual exam and ask your clinician to check your breast self-examination technique.

Women who are breast-feeding or pregnant should not abandon self-exams. Naturally, breasts will feel differently for women going through these changes, as they will during a menstrual cycle, but it’s still an important part of prevention and early detection.

Medical professionals want women to know that the most important thing that comes out of self-breast exams is awareness, knowing your body so you can identify any abnormalities. As individuals, we are the best judges to determine whether anything has changed and we have the power to beat the odds by taking preventive steps like breast self-exams.

For more information about breast cancer and early detection, contact your health care provider, your Concentra health specialist, visit the American Cancer Society Web Site at: