Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Fibrocystic Breast Disease Self Examination

Although fibrocystic breast disease can make breast self examination more challenging, it does not diminish its importance.

Breast Self Examination
Monthly breast self-examination and routine screening mammography are very important for the early detection of breast cancer.

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.
  • 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. There are several approaches for examining the breast.
    • 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 an up and down (in rows) pattern, 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, so you may become proficient and consistent at it.

Perform the exam monthly. Many women find it easy to perform while showering or bathing.

Continue to Fibrocystic Breast Disease Warning Signs

Last Updated: Dec 13, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Fibrocystic Breast Disease References
  1. Horner NK, Lampe JW. Potential mechanisms of diet therapy for fibrocystic breast conditions show inadequate evidence of effectiveness. J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Nov;100(11):1368-80. [11103660]
  2. Norlock FE. Benign breast pain in women: a practical approach to evaluation and treatment. J Am Med Womens Assoc. 2002 Spring;57(2):85-90. [11991427]
  3. Wu C, Ray RM, Lin MG, Gao DL, Horner NK, Nelson ZC, Lampe JW, Hu YW, Shannon J, Stalsberg H, Li W, Fitzgibbons D, Porter P, Patterson RE, Satia JA, Thomas DB. A case-control study of risk factors for fibrocystic breast conditions: Shanghai Nutrition and Breast Disease Study, China, 1995-2000. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Nov 15;160(10):945-60. [15522851]
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