Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Lump in the Breast Breast Self Exam

Monthly breast self-examination and routine mammography in someone who has a breast lump helps detect breast cancer early.

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

  • Inspection: While 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 the exam monthly.

Continue to Lump in the Breast Pain Control

Last Updated: Dec 2, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Lump in the Breast References
  1. Dehner LP, Hill DA, Deschryver K: Pathology of the breast in children, adolescents, and young adults. Semin Diagn Pathol 1999 Aug; 16(3): 235-47. [10490200]
  2. Greydanus DE, Parks DS, Farrell EG: Breast disorders in children and adolescents. Pediatr Clin North Am 1989 Jun; 36(3): 601-38. [2543947]
  3. 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]
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