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The breast, also called a mammary gland, is made up of lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, blood vessels, and lymph vessels

* Fatty tissue surrounds the lobules and ducts
* Ducts are tubes that link the lobules to the nipple
* Lobules are glands in the breast that produce milk
* Blood vessels circulate blood throughout the body. Blood vessels include arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules, and veins
* Lymph vessels carry lymph to lymph nodes in the underarm, above the collarbone, and in the chest. Lymph is the clear fluid that carries infection-fighting cells through the body.

A breast self-exam is a way for you to examine your breasts for lumps or anything else that doesn't seem normal. It is recommended that a breast self-exam be performed monthly, and it is important that you tell your doctor about any unusual breast symptoms as soon as you notice them.

Before a mirror:
* Firmly press your hands down on your hips to tighten your chest muscles
* Look carefully for any changes in the size, shape, or contour of your breasts
* Check for anything unusual: discharge, puckering, dimpling, or changes in skin texture.

Lying down:
* Lie flat on your back, and place your left hand behind your head and a pillow under your left shoulder
* Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your right hand to make overlapping dime-sized circular motions to feel your left breast
* Apply 3 different levels of pressure, light, medium, and firm, with your finger pads to check the breast tissue
* Use each pressure level to feel for lumps before moving to the next spot
* Start by your armpit and move down to just below your breast
* Use the same circular motions and an up-and-down pattern to cover the entire breast area
* Repeat on your right breast using your left hand

Please note: This self-exam is not a substitute for periodic clinical breast examinations by a qualified physician or health care professional.

Not all tumors are cancerous. Tumors that are not cancerous are called benign tumors. Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.

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EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for those great instructions on a self exam. Do you know at what age women should start doing self exams? is it before the age of 35?


April 28, 2009 - 6:55pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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