Breast Cancer Early Detection Saves Lives

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. While there are many risk factors for breast cancer, early detection can make treating it easier.

on October 19, 2023

Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. While there are many risk factors for breast cancer, early detection can make treating it easier.

Performing a breast self-exam or getting a mammogram (x-ray of the breast) are just two ways to check your breasts for cancer before there are signs or symptoms.

What is a breast self-exam (BSE)?

A breast self-exam is a way for you to check your breasts for changes, such as lumps or thickenings. You’ll look at and feel both breasts. Adult women of all ages are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month.

What should I do?

Know YOUR normal. Get to know the normal look and feel of your breasts by checking in with your body regularly. Examine yourself several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. If you are no longer having periods, choose a day that’s easy to remember, such as the first or last day of the month.

What should I look for?

There are different symptoms of breast cancer, and some people have no symptoms at all.

Symptoms can include—Any change in the size or the shape of the breast.

Pain in any area of the breast.

Nipple discharge other than breast milk (including blood).

A new lump in the breast or underarm.


How should a breast self-exam be performed?

In the shower

With the pads/flats of your 3 middle fingers, check the entire breast and armpit area pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure.

Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, hardened knot, or any other breast changes.

In front of mirror

Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead. Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples.

Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

Lying down

When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head.

Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently covering the entire breast area and armpit.

Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.

When should I begin routine mammogram screenings?

The CDC recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor or other health care professional about when to start and how often to get a mammogram.

How can I lower my risk for breast cancer?

  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, or limit alcoholic drinks.
  • If you are taking, or have been told to take, hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives (birth control pills), ask your doctor about the risks and find out if it is right for you.
  • Breastfeed your children, if possible.
  • If you have a family history of breast cancer or inherited changes in your BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, talk to your doctor about other ways to lower your risk.

Talk to your doctor about which breast cancer screening tests are right for you, and when you should have them. Most health insurance plans are required to cover screening mammograms every one to two years for women beginning at age 40 with no out-of-pocket cost (like a co-pay, deductible, or co-insurance).


Live Your Breast Life

Like the colors of the rainbow, no one breast is the same. Our “Live Your Breast Life” campaign is a part of CCI’s efforts to create a more equitable health care experience for all in our community.

Get your “Live Your Breast Life” t-shirt today!


Is it time for your breast cancer screening? Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Your Health Care Home

CCI has multiple locations in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Find the location nearest you.