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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Your Best Breast Cancer Screening Today

Here are three tests every woman should have.

New Policy on Breast Self Exams continued...

The American Cancer Society guidelines on breast self exams only advise women to be aware of their breasts, enough to notice any physical changes. Women can achieve this awareness by occasionally looking at breasts while taking a shower, getting dressed, or looking in the mirror.

Still, a monthly self exam is a great way of becoming familiar with the texture of your own breasts, says Meissner. "There may be insufficient evidence to recommend performing a self breast exam, but it doesn't mean that women shouldn't do it."

Burstein encourages self-examination on a regular basis, preferably after a menstrual cycle, when there are fewer changes in the composition of the breast. Using the flat side of several fingers, he suggests moving your fingers around the breast in a circular motion. It's a good idea, he adds, to examine how the breast feels in a horizontal position (while lying down), and in a vertical one (while standing in the shower).

The National Cancer Institute states that women performing breast self exams should watch out for the following symptoms of breast cancer:

  • A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm area
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Nipple discharge or tenderness, or the nipple pulled back (inverted) into the breast
  • Ridges or pitting of the breast (the skin looks like the skin of an orange)
  • A change in the way the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple looks or feels (for example, warm, swollen, red or scaly)

Women who notice these symptoms are urged to see their doctor for a clinical breast exam.

The Value of a Doctor's Touch

Leading health groups used to recommend that women visit a doctor's office annually for a clinical breast test, as part of their routine physical exam. Now medical associations do not push for the test, but do see it as a nice complement to mammography.

What happened? As in the breast self exam, authorities determined that there was insufficient scientific evidence to make a strong recommendation for or against the clinical breast exam.

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