The New Concept in Breast Cancer Screening – Breast Self Awareness

What is breast self-awareness and how is this different from breast self-exams?

The traditional breast self-exam (BSE) has shifted toward a newer concept called “breast self-awareness.” BSE is performed in a systematic way on a regular basis, typically monthly. Breast self-awareness, on the other hand, is women understanding the normal appearance and feel of their breasts, but without a specific interval or systematic examination technique. The College endorses educating women ages 20 and older regarding breast self-awareness.

The goal here is for women to be alert to any changes, no matter how small, in their breasts, and report them to their doctor.

If a woman chooses to continue doing BSE systematically then that is considered still OK.

Four parts of breast self-awareness:

  1. Know your risk
    • Talk to your family to learn about your family health history
    • Talk to your provider about your personal risk of breast cancer, are you at average OR increased risk?
  2. 2. Get screened
    • Talk with your doctor about which screening tests are right for you. This will depend on whether you are Average Risk OR Higher Risk.
    • Have a Screening Mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk. For women who have dense breasts (look at your old mammogram reports) then it is better to have a 3 D mammogram called tomosynthesis. Talk to your doctor to determine what tests are best for you.
    • Have a breast exam by a clinician at least every 3 years starting at age 20, and every year starting at age 40
  3. Know what is normal for you – See your health care provider if you notice any of these breast changes:
    • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
    • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast
    • Change in the size or shape of the breast
    • Dimpling or puckering of the skin
    • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple
    • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
    • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
    • New pain in one spot that doesn’t go away
  4. Make healthy lifestyle choices– reduce your risk of breast cancer
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Exercise
    • Limit alcohol intake
    • Limit use of medications associated with increased cancer risk
    • Breastfeed if you can