Breast Self-Awareness

Breast Self-Awareness

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, and they lead to more biopsies.

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:

  • A lump

  • Nipple discharge other than
    breast milk, especially a bloody fluid

  • Swelling

  • 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:

  • Nipple fluid that is
    bloody

  • Skin changes on your breast,
    such as dimpling or puckering

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.