A breast self-exam is an inspection of your breasts that you do on your own. To help increase your breast awareness, you use your eyes and hands to regularly observe the look and feel of your breasts.
Many breast changes detected during a breast self-exam have benign causes. This means they are not caused by cancer. Other changes may signal something serious like breast cancer.
A breast self-exam that you do for breast awareness helps you understand the usual look and feel of your breasts.
Still, many healthcare professionals believe there is value in women becoming familiar with their breasts so they understand what's typical for them and can promptly report changes to their healthcare teams.
A breast lump is a growth of tissue that develops within your breast. It may be described as a mass, growth, swelling, thickness or fullness. A breast lump can vary in the way it looks and feels.
Many women find lumps or changes in their breasts at various points in their menstrual cycles. These are typical changes that occur, and finding a change or lump in your breast is not a reason to panic. Breasts often feel different in different places. The look and feel of your breasts will also change as you age.
Watch for these breast changes:
Sometimes, a breast lump is a sign of breast cancer. That's why you should seek prompt medical evaluation. However, many breast lumps result from noncancerous (benign) conditions like benign breast disease, especially in women under 50.
Your family's cancer history can affect your cancer risk and the chance that a lump might be a more serious concern.
A breast lump can develop as a result of conditions such as:
In some cases, yes. A mammogram can help your healthcare team determine the cause of the lump and if additional treatment is necessary. They also may recommend additional tests and procedures, such as ultrasound or biopsy.
Early detection and routine mammogram screenings are key to reducing death from breast cancer. That's why Mayo Clinic Health System recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer start screening mammograms yearly at 40. Average risk of breast cancer means women with no family history of breast cancer and no other risk factors for breast cancer. Women with a family history or other risks may need earlier or more frequent mammograms at the guidance of their healthcare team.
Any breast symptoms, such as a breast lump, nipple discharge or breast pain, should be evaluated by a medical professional.
Schedule an appointment with your healthcare team if you notice:
Your healthcare team may recommend additional tests and procedures to determine the cause of your breast changes.