What Changes Do I Look For in Breast Appearance During a Self-Exam?

Question: Are there any changes in the look or appearance of my breast that I should look for when doing my breast self-exam?

Answer: In addition to feeling your breast for any changes, you want to do a visual exam and actually look at your breast. What you want to do is stand in front of the mirror, and you're going to look for changes -- changes in the size or the shape of your breast, changes in the texture. You might see an orange peel effect. You might notice other changes, such as increased visualization of your veins. You might notice the direction that your nipple points has changed. You may notice a dimpling or puckering. Any of these changes should be brought to the attention of your healthcare provider.

Another important thing about the visual exam though is to make sure that you do it in three different positions, because you will see as you change your arm position that your breast actually changes. So first do the exam with both arms down at your side. Then raise your arm straight above your head. And then, the third position, you'll put your hands on your hip, and you'll bring your shoulders forward a little bit. And, include that as part of your regular breast self-exam.

It's probably a good idea to do this before you do the feeling part of your exam, because sometimes when you do the feeling part of the exam, you might make some changes, such as the redness that you would then notice in a visual exam.

Next: What Should I Do if I Find a Lump or Thickening in My Breast?

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