Experts recommend that you be aware of how your breasts normally look and feel.footnote 1 This is called breast self-awareness. It can help you notice any changes. Many breast problems are first discovered at home. Breast lumps can be non-cancerous or cancerous. Lumps or changes also may be signs of other breast conditions, such as mastitis or a fibroadenoma. Talk to your doctor if you notice any changes.
How It Is Done
To be aware of changes in your breasts, you can feel them for lumps or pain. You can also look for other changes, like redness or a change in the skin's usual colour or nipple discharge. How you do this and how often is up to you. Unlike with regular breast self-exams, you don't have to follow a schedule or step-by-step check of your breasts.
If you choose to check your breasts, the best time to do it is usually 1 week after your menstrual period starts. Your breasts are less likely to be swollen or tender then. If you don't have periods, you can check your breasts at any time that's best for you. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns or notice changes.
You still need regular mammograms or breast exams by your doctor even if you check your own breasts. Your doctor can help you decide when to do these.
If you notice any changes to the normal look and feel of your breasts, have them checked by a doctor. Changes may include:
Any new lump. It may or may not be painful to touch.
Unusual thick areas.
Discharge from your nipples if you aren't breastfeeding.
Any changes in the skin of your breasts or nipples, such as puckering or dimpling.
Redness or a change in the skin's usual colour.
An unusual increase in the size of one breast.
One breast unusually lower than the other.
Remember that most breast problems or changes are caused by something other than cancer.
Canadian Cancer Society (2023). Know your breasts. Canadian Cancer Society. https://cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/find-cancer-early/know-your-body/know-your-breasts. Accessed May 18, 2023.
Current as of: April 19, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.