Sarah Cannon - October 20, 2014

Should I Perform Breast Self Exams?

When it comes to breast self exams (BSE) , there has been some conflicting information in the news. On the one hand, research shows that breast cancer survival was not improved, whether women performed a BSE. However, many healthcare professionals emphasize that there are still reasons to do them.

manually examine the breast while reclining by moving the fingers up and down, inward, and in a circle

 “Most gynecologists and oncology specialists believe that a breast self-exam is a valuable addition to your overall breast screening health,” said Crystal Dugger, Assistant Vice President, Clinical Operations. “A breast self-exam is an excellent way to increase breast self-awareness and understand what is normal for your breasts and what warrants a call to your doctor. The key is to know how to do a breast self-exam properly and then do it on a regular schedule.”

Tip: Consider having a "breast buddy" you can remind each other that it's time for a BSE!

What's Normal and What's Not

There is no “normal” or “standard” breast among women. Breasts differ in size, shape and density, and often one breast will be slightly different from its mate. When you’re pregnant, expect your breasts to undergo changes that can be reflected in size and tenderness. If you have any concerns or worries, share them with your OB/GYN.

Call your healthcare provider if you experience any of these warning signals:

  • Puckering, dimpling, scaliness or redness of the breast or nipple
  • Changes in the size, shape or contour of the breasts
  • A lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
  • New, persistent pain in one spot

How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam

For the best results, perform your BSE both lying down and standing, since changes in body positioning can affect what you are able to feel below the skin. You may find it easier to do the standing portion while in the shower, since your fingers will glide more easily over your skin.