A woman should have an annual mammogram once she turns 45. However, younger women are encouraged to perform a breast self-exam once every month to maintain breast health and look for any abnormalities.

“Self-breast-exams are important, but so is breast awareness,” said Sarah Barber, RN, breast oncology nurse navigator at McLaren Greater Lansing. “It’s important that women are familiar with what their breasts look like and feel like, so they are in tune with any changes that may indicate a problem.

How to perform a breast self-exam:

1. Face a mirror with shoulders straight and arms on hips. Look for changes in size, shape, or color as well as changes to the skin or nipple.
2. Repeat with arms raised.
3. Lie down on a flat surface. Use your right hand to feel your left breast. Using the pads of your fingers, go in a circular motion around an area about the size of a quarter. Start at the nipple and cover your entire breast.
4. Repeat using your left hand to check your right breast.
5. Repeat while sitting or standing. You might find it easier to do this part in the shower.

What if I find something?

“If you are concerned with something you felt during your breast self-exam, visit your primary care doctor,” said Barber.

You should talk to your doctor if you notice any changes such as:

  • The look, feel, and size of the breast
  • The look and feel of the nipple
  • Redness, warmth, pain, or swelling
  • Discharge
  • Lump or a thick spot in the breast tissue
  • Itching, sores, or rashes
  • Dimples, bulges, or ridges on the skin
  • Changes to the nipple pulling inward instead of sticking out  

Your doctor may schedule a mammogram for further testing.

How can I learn more?

Being “breast-aware” by performing breast self-exams may lead to early detection of breast cancer. It’s important to talk with your doctor about your overall health, including family history. 

For a list of primary care providers accepting new patients, click here.

Greater Lansing has three convenient locations that offer comprehensive breast care and mammography services. To learn more, or to schedule a mammogram, click here.