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Breast Self-Examination

What Affects the Test

Reasons why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Changes in your breasts or breast tenderness that occur during your menstrual cycle.
  • Examining your breasts at different times in your menstrual cycle. This may make it difficult to compare results of one examination with those of another.
  • Having fibrocystic lumps. These may make a breast self-examination difficult because lumps occur throughout the breast. The fibrocystic lumps can also become tender before your menstrual cycle.

What To Think About

  • Medical experts disagree about the need for regular breast self-examinations. Some doctors still encourage regular BSE. But it is unknown if breast self-examinations are helpful in finding breast cancer.1
  • An apparently normal breast self-examination does not rule out breast cancer. Breast self-examinations should not replace regular clinical breast examinations by a doctor and mammograms. For more information, see the topics Clinical Breast Examination and Mammogram.
  • If you have a breast lump that you are concerned about, see your doctor to determine the cause. Remember, most breast lumps are not caused by cancer. A breast biopsy may be needed to fully evaluate a breast lump. For more information, see the topic Breast Biopsy.
  • A pad, the breast self-examination (BSE) pad, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an aid in breast self-examination. The sensor pad is made of two layers of plastic with a small amount of liquid silicone inside. It is supposed to make breast lumps easier to detect by reducing the amount of rubbing (friction) between the fingers and the breast skin. The sensor pad is available without a prescription at many pharmacies.

Other Places To Get Help


American Cancer Society (ACS)
Phone: 1-800-ACS-2345 (1-800-227-2345)
TDD: 1-866-228-4327 toll-free
Web Address:

The American Cancer Society (ACS) conducts educational programs and offers many services to people with cancer and to their families. Staff at the toll-free numbers have information about services and activities in local areas and can provide referrals to local ACS divisions.
7 East Lancaster Avenue, 3rd Floor
Ardmore, PA��19003
Web Address: is a Web site dedicated to helping women understand breast cancer and make good decisions about their treatment. This site provides information from medical professionals on all aspects of breast cancer, from screening and surgery to sex and intimacy. The site also offers links to chat rooms, discussion boards, and "Ask the Expert" online conferences.

National Cancer Institute (NCI)
6116 Executive Boulevard
Suite 300
Bethesda, MD��20892-8322
Phone: 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237)
Web Address: (or for live help online)

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a U.S. government agency that provides up-to-date information about the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. NCI also offers supportive care to people who have cancer and to their families. NCI information is also available to doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. NCI provides the latest information about clinical trials. The Cancer Information Service, a service of NCI, has trained staff members available to answer questions and send free publications. Spanish-speaking staff members are also available.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 03, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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