How Do I Do a Breast Self-Exam After a Mastectomy?

Question: How do I do breast self-exam after I have had a mastectomy?

Answer: Women who have had a mastectomy should perform incisional exams every month using the same criteria for women who still have a breast on that side. They're going to be taking a look at finding whether there are any tiny bumps or lumps, particularly along the incisional tract. And, their skin should be examined up to the clavicle, and down to three inches above the waist, because that actually is breast tissue there.

Women oftentimes assume that after a mastectomy, all of the breast tissue's been removed. And that's physically impossible to do, because the breast tissue does go much higher on the chest than just the mound of the breast. And they're looking for, usually, tiny red bumps that may resemble a pea and be hard. The most common place for recurrence of breast cancer for women who have had mastectomies is right along their incision.

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