Your breasts change as you go through different stages of your life. It's important
to learn what is normal for your breasts. This is called breast self-awareness. The
key to breast self-awareness is knowing how your breasts normally look and feel. This
helps you to notice any changes.
Many experts now say that women should focus on breast self-awareness instead of doing
a breast self-examination (BSE). These experts include the American Cancer Society,
the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the American Congress of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists. Some experts even advise not teaching women to do BSEs. That’s
because research hasn’t shown a clear benefit to doing BSEs.
Breast self-awareness isn’t about following a certain method and schedule. Breast
self-awareness is knowing what's normal for your breasts. That way you can notice
even small changes right away. If you see any changes, report them to your healthcare
provider right away.
Changes to look for
Call your provider if you find any changes in your breasts that concern you. These
changes may include:
Nipple discharge other than breast milk, especially a bloody discharge
A change in size or shape
Skin irritation, such as redness, thickening, or dimpling of the skin
Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit
Nipple problems, such as pain or redness
What if I find a lump?
Contact your provider if you find lumpiness in one breast, feel something different
in the tissue, or feel a definite lump. Sometimes the lumpiness may be due to menstrual
changes. But there may be reason for concern.
Your provider may want to see you right away if you have:
It’s normal to be upset if you find a lump. But it’s important to contact your provider
right away. Remember that most breast lumps are benign. This means they are not cancer.