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Breast cancer screening guidelines

Physicians recommend that breast self-examination be practiced along with regularly scheduled clinical breast examination and mammography. Scheduling guidelines depend on various factors, including family health history. Consult with your clinician to create a screening plan.

The VCU Breast Imaging Center provides the latest screening recommendations and guidelines.

When should breast self-examination be done?

By doing breast self-examination regularly, you get to know how your breasts normally feel so that you are more apt to detect any change.

Women should begin practicing breast self-examination by age 20 and continue the practice throughout their lives — even during pregnancy and after menopause.

Breast self-examination should be performed every month. Become familiar with how your breasts usually look and feel so that you may notice any change from what is normal for you.

  • If you still menstruate, the best time to do breast self-examination is several days, or about a week, after your period ends. These are the days when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen.
  • If you no longer menstruate, pick a certain day — such as the first day of each month — to remind yourself to do breast self-examination.
  • If you are taking hormones, talk with your physician about when to do breast self-examination.

Based on your self-exam, check with your physician if you find any change in your breast(s) that causes you concern. Changes may include:

  • Development of a lump
  • A bloody or clear discharge from nipple
  • Swelling of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Nipple abnormalities (such as pain, redness, scaliness, turning inward)