Breast Care

These 3 Steps Can Save Your Life

1. Clinical Breast Exam

The clinical breast exam is a physical examination of the breasts by a nurse or doctor. It is painless and takes only a few minutes. The clinical breast exam should be done a short time before the mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends that women over age 20 have a clinical breast exam every year.

Cancer Facts

For Early Detection Works women, the clinical breast exam is the first service provided by the program and is available for women ages 40 to 64 that qualify for the program.

2. Breast Self –Examination

The American Cancer Society states that women age 20 and older may choose to perform a breast self-examination monthly. These examinations should be done at the same time each month because changes in hormone levels affect the feel of the breast. For a woman before menopause, the recommended time for breast self-examination is following her period each month. Through performing these monthly self-examinations, a woman learns what is normal for her body and is able to detect changes. Changes in the feel or appearance of the breast should be discussed with a doctor or nurse immediately. Changes to look for include:

  • A new lump or hard area (many breasts have normal "lumps")
  • Skin redness, irritation, or dimpling
  • Nipples turning inward or producing a discharge that isn't milk
  • Change in size or shape, such as swelling

Many women have saved their own lives by finding breast cancer while it was still small and treatable.

Women in the Early Detection Works program will be taught how to do a breast self-examination at the time of their office visit.

The American Cancer Society web site also provides information on how to do breast self-examination. This information can be found at their web site

3. Annual Mammogram

Recommendations by the American Cancer Society and The National Cancer Institute state that women age 40 and older should have an annual mammogram.

The Early Detection Works program pays for annual mammograms starting at age 40.

The mammogram is an x-ray of the breasts, and usually two x-ray pictures are taken of each breast. There may be brief discomfort but it lasts only a few seconds. Some women avoid mammograms because they fear the mammogram will be very painful, but current mammogram techniques are much more comfortable than in the past. Studies show that having a mammogram every year greatly reduces a woman's chance of dying of breast cancer.