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Breast self-exam

Self-examination of the breast; BSE; Breast cancer - BSE; Breast cancer screening - self exam

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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Breast self-exam
Breast self-exam
Breast self-exam

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The best time to do a monthly self-breast exam is about 3 to 5 days after your period starts. Do it at the same time every month. 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.

Your goal is to get used to the feel of your breasts. This will help you to find anything new or different. If you do, call your provider right away.

Related Information

References

Mallory MA, Golshan M. Examination techniques: roles of the physician and patient in evaluating breast disease. In: Bland KI, Copeland EM, Klimberg VS, Gradishar WJ, eds. The Breast: Comprehensive Management of Benign and Malignant Diseases. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 25.

Sandadi S, Rock DT, Orr JW, Valea FA. Breast disease: detection, management, and surveillance of breast disease. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 15.

Swartz MH, Nentin FG. The breast. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis: History and Examination. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 16.

Preventive Services Task Force website. Breast cancer: screening. www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendation/breast-cancer-screening. Updated January 11, 2016. Accessed June 2, 2021.

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Review Date: 1/27/2020  

Reviewed By: LaQuita Martinez, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, Alpharetta, GA. Internal review and update on 06/03/2021 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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