#1. Develop “breast awareness.” Breast awareness is about knowing how your breasts normally look and feel – and paying close attention if something seems off. If you notice any changes, even if they seem minor, it’s important to consult a health professional. Particular ones to be aware of include:
• lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
• swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening of the breast
• change in the size or shape of the breast
• dimpling or puckering of the skin
• itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
• pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
• nipple discharge that starts suddenly
• new pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
If you aren’t sure what is “normal” for you, a monthly Breast Self-Exam (BSE) can be a helpful tool. It involves feeling your breasts for abnormalities and looking in a mirror for changes in the skin. For full instructions, visit nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam.
#2. Get regular clinical breast exams. A clinical breast exam is a physical examination of your breasts by a doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse. If you have an annual physical or appointment, it is usually included as a routine check.
For women in their 20s and 30s, The American Cancer Society recommends getting a clinical breast exam every three years. Women 40 and over should have one every year.
#3. Get regular mammograms (40+). The American Cancer Society recommends women have an annual mammogram – an X-ray exam of the breasts – starting at age 40. They should continue having one every year as long as they are in good health.