August 10, 2022

Breast Exams and Cancer Prevention

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Regular breast exams are a simple way to detect and start treatment for breast cancer early. During an annual physical, the healthcare provider usually performs a manual breast exam to detect abnormalities in the tissue. Healthcare providers also recommend more detailed breast cancer screenings through mammograms starting around age 45. In combination with clinical exams and screening tools, you can perform breast self-exams (BSE) regularly at home.

At-Home Breast Exam

Mayo Clinic recommends starting the exam in front of a mirror shirtless and braless with your arms at your sides. This portion of the exam consists of a visual examination of the breasts. First, look for puckering, dimpling, changes in size, shape, or symmetry of the breasts, and signs of inverted nipples. Next, look for these changes with your hands pressed down on your hips and with your arms raised overhead. At the end of the visual examination, lift your breasts to look for symmetry along the bottom ridges of the breasts (Mayo Clinic, 2022).

The next portion of the exam consists of a manual breast examination. Mayo Clinic recommends using the pads of the three middle fingers to apply different levels of pressure to the breast tissue to feel for any lumps or abnormalities. Start the examination at the collarbone and slowly move clockwise across the chest (Mayo Clinic, 2022).

People naturally develop lumps in their breast and may notice changes based on their menstrual cycle. However, you should contact your doctor if you notice (Mayo Clinic, 2022):

  • A hard lump or knot near your underarm
  • Changes in the way the breasts looks or feels
  • Dimples, puckers, bulges, or ridges in the skin of the breast
  • A recent nipple inversion
  • Redness, warm, swelling, or pain
  • Itching, scales, sores, or rashes
  • Bloody nipple discharge

It’s Fetch is a community that provides a safe space for members to discuss health and wellness topics. We provide access to archived health related content, note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content shared, regardless of date should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

-Written by Sabrina Park MPH

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  1. […] during a visit. During the annual exam the OB/GYN will continue to perform a pelvic exam, clinical breast exam, and pap smear when appropriate. Beginning in their 30s, OB/GYNs will order an HPV test every 5 […]

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