Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Cancer of the Breast Breast Self Exam

Monthly breast self-examination and routine mammography help detect breast cancer early.

The Technique
There are two steps to breast self-examination: inspection and palpation.

  • Standing in front of a mirror, inspect all aspect of the breasts for any changes in size, shape, contour, or symmetry. Place close attention to any skin dimpling, discoloration, or change in the nipple.
  • Palpation: examination through touching may be performed while standing in the shower, or when lying flat, with a folded towel placed behind the back on the side you are examining. Palpation is performed with the fingertips of the index, middle, and ring fingers. Systematically palpate lightly and then more deeply. Carefully knead the tissue in an attempt to detect any change in consistency or a lump. There are several approaches for examining the breast.
    • It is important to establish a routine method for palpating the entire breast. This will guarantee no portion of the breast is left unexamined.
    • Remember to palpate under the arm for any abnormal swellings or masses.
    • You may palpate in a circular path around the nipple, starting at the nipple and then extend outwardly.
    • Alternatively, some may wish to divide the breast into imaginary quadrants, or wedges, and then examine each section thoroughly before moving on to the next section.
    • Finally, some may wish to examine the breast in rows, starting at the inner aspect and moving to the outside. Any of these methods are fine as long as you find the one that suits you best.

Perform breast self examination monthly!

Continue to Cancer of the Breast Outlook

Last Updated: Aug 12, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Cancer of the Breast References
  1. Aiello EJ, Buist DS, White E, Seger D, Taplin SH. Rate of breast cancer diagnoses among postmenopausal women with self-reported breast symptoms. J Am Board Fam Pract. 2004 Nov-Dec;17(6):408-15. [15575032]
  2. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer: Breast cancer and hormone replacement therapy: collaborative reanalysis of data from 51 epidemiological studies of 52,705 women with breast cancer and 108,411 women without breast cancer. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Lancet 1997 Oct 11; 350(9084): 1047-59. [10213546]
  3. Giordano SH. A review of the diagnosis and management of male breast cancer. Oncologist. 2005 Aug;10(7):471-9. [16079314]
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