Breast health

There are many misconceptions about breast cancer. One is that only women over 50 get it. Another is that you don’t have to worry about it if no one in your family has suffered. Unfortunately, while these are indicators of risk, most women with breast cancer don’t have these or other recognizable risk factors. That’s why it’s important that each of us learn what we can do to prevent and identify breast cancer.

What can you do?
There are tests to find changes in your breasts early. When breast cancer is found in its early stages, it can be treated. This can save your life.

• Do a breast self exam (BSE) every month
• Have a clinical breast exam by your doctor
• Have a mammogram

Taking care of your body’s health may also lower your risk for breast cancer.

• Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains
• Don’t gain weight after menopause
• Exercise
• Drink less than one drink of alcohol a day

Why is a breast self exam important?
Performing regular breast self exams will allow you to become comfortable with how your breasts look and feel, so that if anything changes, you’ll know. See your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following changes in your breasts:

• A lump, hard knot, or thickening
• Swelling, warmth, redness, or darkening
• Change in the size or shape
• Itchy, scaly sore, or rash of the nipple
• Dimpling or puckering of the skin
• Pulling in of your nipple or other parts
• Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
• New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away

When should I get a clinical breast exam?
A clinical breast exam is done by your doctor or nurse in an office or medical center. He or she will look at and feel your breasts and under your arms to look for breast changes. Sometimes breast cancer can be felt and not seen on a mammogram.

• Have a breast exam when you are age 20
• Have a breast exam at least every 3 years between ages 20 and 39
• Have a breast exam every year if you are over age 40

At Planned Parenthood, we will perform a clinical breast exam each time you come in for your annual exam (aka Well Woman exam) and any other time you ask for it.

To make an appointment for a Well Woman exam (including a breast self exam), click here.

Check out the following documents for step-by-step breast self exam instructions in English or Spanish.


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