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How Breast Self-Exams Aid In Early Diagnosis | Oswego Health

Doctor Teaching Breast Self-Exam

Learn more about what you can do from home to help detect breast cancer early. Make breast self-exams part of your screening strategy with Oswego Health.

Breast Care: Early Diagnosis Is Best and YOU Are Your Best Chance at It

According to the American Cancer Society, early detection is one of the best methods for preventing deaths from breast cancer. When breast cancer is found early enough in a small, confined area, it's easier to treat successfully. Here, Oswego Health discusses the importance of regular self-checks and the role you can play in your own wellbeing.

Why Are Breast Self-Checks Necessary?

When breast cancer is in the localized stage, a patient has a 5-year relative survival rate of up to 99%. The goal of your breast self-check is to identify an issue before it causes symptoms. The size and scope of spread will help healthcare professionals predict the likely outcome of the disease.

However, breast self-checks are just one step of the equation. While they may not be a reliable way to detect breast cancer alone, self-exams play an important role in a series of early detection measures. Healthcare professionals recommend performing routine self-checks along with receiving regular exams by a doctor, mammograms, and other screening measures.

How Often Should I Do A Breast Self-Exam?

The more often you examine yourself, the better you'll know your body, and the more likely you'll be able to detect abnormal changes. Women should perform self-exams once a month, and breast self-checks should be done a few days after your period ends when your breasts are less swollen and tender. If you're post-menopausal, simply mark your calendar with an easy date to remember.

A simple addition to your morning routine, breast self-checks take just a few minutes. If you're unsure about how to perform your self-check, your doctor can help. Some simple strategies include:

Breast Self-Exam While Standing

Place one arm overhead and check the corresponding breast with the other hand. Use a circular pattern to ensure you've covered all possible areas of the breast and armpit.

Breast Self -Exam While Lying Down

Put your arm behind your head and a pillow under your shoulder, and then use your other hand to gently feel for abnormalities through the breast and armpit areas.

Visual Breast Inspection

Look for any noticeable changes in front of a mirror. Do this while standing with your arms at your sides, with your arms overhead, and with your hands on your hips while flexing your chest muscles.

What Am I Looking For During Breast Self-Exams?

Your goal is to detect unusual breast changes, including (but not limited to):

  • Change in the look, feel, or size of the breast
  • Change in the look or feel of the nipple
  • Skin dimpling or puckering
  • Lumps, hard knots, or thick spots in the breast tissue
  • Nipple discharge
  • Nipple or other area pulling inward
  • Persistent pain in one spot
  • Rash on the nipple
  • Swelling of one or both breasts
  • Warmth, redness, or dark spots on the skin

If you notice any of the above or other concerning changes, it's important to report them to a healthcare professional. Many self-exam results may not be signs of breast cancer, but you should still call your doctor just in case.

Consult a Breast Care Navigator

Learn more about breast care at Oswego Health. Located in Oswego, New York, our Breast Care Navigators are ready to answer your questions and develop a detailed plan for women in need of care. For more information, reach out to us today.


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