Self exam? Here’s what to really look for.
Do you need to schedule a formal, sit-down monthly breast self exam to inspect every single centimeter? No. Experts now recommend against routine self exams, saying that they create unnecessary anxiety and don’t actually lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. But you should know what the red flags are: any lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area; swelling, warmth or redness; a change in size or shape, dimpling or puckering of the skin; an itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple; nipple discharge that starts suddenly; or new pain that doesn’t go away.
Lumps may freak you out, but they’re usually not cancer.
In fact, 80 percent of lumps biopsied turn out not to be cancer—so don’t panic if you uncover one while you’re showering or getting dressed. Odds are it’s a kind of cyst. Fibrocystic breast changes—in which breast tissue is overreacts to hormones, which results in lumps and cysts—affect 50 to 60 percent of women.
Of course, the worst thing you can do is ignore it and hope it’ll just go away. You should always see your doctor any time you spot anything abnormal.