Breast Health FAQ

Why should I do a breast self-exam?

Regular breast self-exam can help you know how your breasts normally feel and look, so you can notice any changes. When you find a change, you should see your health care provider. Most breast changes or lumps are not cancerous, but only a health care provider can tell you for sure. When breast cancer is found early, you have more treatment choices and a better chance of recovery.

What am I looking for when I do a breast self-exam?

You are looking for a lump or change that stands out as different from the rest of your breast tissue. If you find a lump or other change in your breast, either during breast self-exam or by chance, you should examine the other breast. If both breasts feel the same, the lumpiness is probably normal. As you get to know your breasts better by doing breast self-exams, you should be able to tell the difference between your normal lumpiness and what may be a change.

Besides a lump or swelling, other changes in your breast might be:

  • skin irritation or dimpling
  • nipple pain or retraction (turning inward)
  • redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin
  • a discharge other than breast milk

If you see any of these changes, you should see your health care provider right away.

Is there a right way to examine my breasts?

Yes. There are several proper ways to examine your breasts. Ask your health care provider to teach you how to do a breast self-exam to make sure you are doing it correctly and thoroughly.

How often should I do a self-exam?

A breast self-exam is recommended every month a few days after your period ends. During this time, your breasts are less tender or swollen. It is important to do your breast self-exam at the same time every month.

Is there anything I can do to improve my breast health?

Yes. Get more exercise. Studies show that increased physical exercise reduces your risk of breast cancer.

Will nipple piercing permanently damage my breast?

According to the La Leche League, renowned breastfeeding advocates, Nothing in life, nipple piercing included, is without risk. The LLL website also reports that neither the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse-Midwives have taken a stance on nipple piercing and your ability to breastfeed. However, as is the case with piercing any body part, infection, tetanus and hepatitis are possible risks as well as transmission of HIV.

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Breast Health FAQ