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Breast Self-Exams

By practicing monthly self-examination, by visiting your doctor annually for a check-up, and by having a mammogram, you can take an active role in your health care. Examine your breasts every month, checking for changes or lumps that are unfamiliar to you. Before menopause, the best time to do the exam is two weeks after the start of your monthly period. After menopause, choose a day and examine on that day each month.

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Location Information

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877-715-HOPE

How To Perform a Breast Self-Exam

An important step to early detection is to perform a regular breast self-exam. A breast self-examination, or BSE, should be done monthly, around the same time, typically right after your menstrual cycle has ended. If you have been through menopause, choose the same date every month. There are two steps to a BSE, visual inspection and palpation.

Step 1- Visual inspection

Position yourself in front of the mirror with hands-on-hips, and take this time to look and pay special attention to skin changes and nipple changes. Some skin changes to look for are redness, swelling, and puckering. Nipple changes to look for are indentation, scaling, and discharge. Then follow these same steps, but with your hands over your head, instead of on your hips and check again for any change in appearance or contour.

Step 2 - Palpation

There are three common methods, line, circle, and wedge. Position yourself in an upright and reclining position, upon touch, the breast should feel soft and smooth, similar to an extra firm pillow. Remember to check underarm and upper chest areas.

  1. Line Method - Use the soft pad of your 3 middle fingers, move in a vertical line starting at the underarm area (repeat up and down motion)
  2. Circle Method - Move the three middle fingers in a circular motion starting at the outer edge and work your way in towards the nipple.
  3. Wedge - With your three middle fingers, start at the outer edge and move in towards the wedge sections of the breast.

If you notice changes or discover a lump or knot like a small hard pebble - notify your doctor

Please Note: A BSE (breast self-exam) should be used in conjunction with clinical breast exams by a doctor and mammography, according to your doctor’s recommendation. Click here to learn more about clinical breast exams.


Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

MedStar Health doctors and the American Cancer Society recommend different screening guidelines based on the following risk categories:

Average Risk

  • Age 20 to 34
    • Monthly self-examination
    • Examination by a trained professional every three years
  • Age 35 to 39
    • Monthly self-examination
    • Examination by a trained professional every three years
  • Age 40 and over
    • Monthly self-examination
    • Annual examination by a trained professional
    • Annual mammogram

Average risk may increase based on:

  • Personal history of breast abnormalities
  • Current age
  • Breast cancer history of close relatives
  • Whether a woman has had a breast biopsy
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Race

High-risk: Family history of disease (at least one first-degree relative—parent or sibling—who has had breast cancer)

  • Women should be aware of any changes in their breasts. Monthly breast self-examination beginning at 20 years old is optional, but highly recommended.
  • Clinical examination every six months starting 10 years before the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed with the disease.
  • Annual mammography starting 10 years before the age of the youngest family member with the disease (but no earlier than 25 and no later than 40).
  • Consider annual MRI (consult with your physician).

High-risk: Diagnosis of benign breast disease or breast cancer confined to the milk duct or lobule

  • Women should be aware of any changes in their breasts. Monthly self-examination beginning at 20 years old is optional, but highly recommended.
  • Clinical examination every six months beginning at time of diagnosis.
  • Annual mammography beginning at the time of diagnosis.
  • Consider annual MRI (consult with your physician).

Our Locations

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
5601 Loch Raven Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Harbor Hospital
The Cancer Center
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
3333 North Calvert St.
Johnston Professional Bldg
G23
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Health Bel Air Medical Campus
Breast Center at Bel Air
12 MedStar Blvd.
Bel Air, MD 21015
Phone:

410-515-6090E

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