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Breast self exam

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A breast self-exam is a check-up a woman does at home to look for changes or problems in the breast tissue. Many women feel that doing this is important to their health.

However, experts do not agree about the benefits of breast self-exams in finding breast cancer or saving lives. Talk to your health care provider about whether breast self-exams are right for you.

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The best time to do a self-breast exam is about 3 - 5 days after your period starts. Your breasts are not as tender or lumpy at this time in your monthly cycle.

If you have gone through menopause, do your exam on the same day every month.

Begin by lying on your back. It is easier to examine all breast tissue if you are lying down. Next, stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your side. Do the same with your arms raised above your head.

Most women have some lumps. Your goal is to find anything new or different. If you do, call your health care provider right away.

Alternative Names
Self-examination of the breast; BSE

References
American Cancer Society recommendations for early breast cancer detection in women without breast symptoms. www.cancer.org. Revised 10/24/2013.

Screening for Breast Cancer. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Web site. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsbrca.htm. Accessed 08/31/2013.

Update Date: 11/15/2013
Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Copyright 1997-2014, A.D.A.M., Inc. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized in writing by ADAM Health Solutions.
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