Search this site
Article Listings
Active Living
Full Listing with story descriptions
A Healthy Balance
Ankle Sprains
Active Kids, Healthy Kids
Active Kids in Winter
Athletic Skin Infections
Children, Nutrition and Exercise
Beat the Heat!
Cold Comfort
Cold Weather Workouts
Concussion in Sport
Core Stability
Cross Country Skiing
Exercise and Disabilities
Exercise and Menstrual Irregularities
Exercise in the Heat
Exercise is Medicine
Exercise Options
Exercising in Pregnancy
Exercising in Pregnancy
Female Athletes
FITT Prescription
Footwear for Running
From Surviving to Thriving
Gadgets and Gizmos
Get Moving!
Get Motivated
Golf Exercises
Golf Injury Prevention
Head Injuries
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Hockey Injuries
Home Gyms
Jump Start Weight Loss
Knee Cap Pain
Knee Ligament Injuries
Live Actively
Low Back Pain
Osteoporosis and Exercise
Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Plantar Fasciitis
Prehistoric Workout
Recreational Safety Equipment
Safe Snow Shovelling
Shin Splints
Ski Conditioning
Sore Elbow
Sore Shoulder
Spinal Cord Injuries
Staying Active
Staying Fit in the Cold
Sports Nutrition and Supplements
Strength Training
Swimming Injuries
Teen Sports Injuries
Water and Exercise
Weight Training
7 Wonders of Walking
Adolescent Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
Adolescent Behaviour Problems
Adolescent Growth and Development
Body Image
Body Piercing
Chronic Diseases in Teens
Communications Skills
Concussion in Sport
Cosmetics and Skincare
Dangers of Artificial Tanning
Depression - Causes
Drug Use
Female Physical Exam
First Period
Internet Safety
Junior High
Mentoring to Quit Smoking
Parent-Teen Communication
Parent -Teen Interaction Patterns
Personal Care
Psychological Assessment
School Problems
Self Esteem
Self Esteem and Body Image
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Talking About Sex
Taking Chances
Teaching Respect
Teens and Smoking
Teenage Blues
Teen Bedwetting
Teen Drivers
Teen Girls
Teen Health
Teen Immunization
Teen Independence
Teen Rebellion
Teens and Divorce
Teenagers and Sexual Issues
Teens and Exercise
Water and Exercise
A Woman's Physical
Your First Job
Youth Violence
Ask the Doctor
Aspirin Every Day?
Cost of Doctor's Visit
Does My Sore Knee Require an MRI?
Do I Need a Bone Density Test?
Do I Need an Annual Physical?
My Doctor Says I Need a Test
My Doctor Diagnosed Osteoarthritis
Restore Your Core
Should I Exercise During pregnancy?
Vaccination Controversies
Full Listing with story descriptions
Advice from the Maternity Clinic
Advice from the Maternity Clinic (Part 2)
Alcohol in Pregnancy
Building a Better Baby
Birthing Etiquette
Birth Plans
Birthing Procedure Trends
Bleeding in Pregnancy
Blood Pressure
Breastfeeding Benefits
Caesarean Section by Request
Care for the New Mother
Cord Blood Banking
Delaying Motherhood
Blue after Baby or Postpartum Depression
Diabetes in Pregnancy
Eating Well for Pregnancy
Evolving Ideas about Pregnancy and Birth
Exercise in Pregnancy
Is it Safe to Exercise During Pregnancy
Fetal Alcohol
Flying During Pregnancy
Folic Acid in Pregnancy
High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Getting a latch on breastfeeding
Group B Streptococcus
Induction of Labour
Infections During Pregnancy
Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)
In-Vitro Fertilization
Low Birth Weight Babies
Maternity and parental leave
Medication and Pregnancy
Managing Your Own Labour
Monitoring Your Labour
Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy
Pain Relief in Labour
Prenatal Classes
Preterm Labour
Planning a Pregnancy
Prenatal Care Providers
Postpartum Repetitive Strain Injuries
RH Disease
Rupture of Membranes Before Labour
Sex During Pregnancy
Skin Changes in Pregnancy
Smoking and Pregnancy
Support During Labour
Travelling While Pregnant
Ultrasound for Fun and Photos
Natural Remedies in Pregnancy
Pregnancy Weight Gain
Vaccinations During Pregnancy
Vacuum and Forceps for Delivery
Vaginal Birth After Caesarean
When Baby Comes Home
Full Listing with story descriptions
Asthma in Children
Attention Deficit Disorder
Bedtime Battles
Bed Wetting
Childcare Options
Children's Headaches
Childhood Obesity
Choosing A Babysitter
Colds and Flu
Common Childhood Skin Infections
Developmental Milestones
Diaper Rash
Daytime Wetting
Developmental Co-ordination Disorder
Feeding Your Baby
Feeding Your Toddler
Head Lice
How Children Grow
Hearing Loss
Hearing Issues in Newborns
Heart Murmers
Hip Clicks
Is it an Emergency?
Children and Sports Injuries
Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)
Learning Disabilities
Leg Problems
Preparing for Lab Tests
Red Rashes
RSV-Childhood Respiratory Virus
Safe Summer Fun
Sick Toddler
Sleep Struggles
Sniffles, Fevers, Rashes and Coughs
Introducing Solid Foods
Sore Throats
Speech Problems
Strep Throat
Toddler Safety
Tooth Injuries
Travelling with Children
Urinary Tract Infections
Vaccination and Autism
When to go to the Doctor
Whooping Cough
Worried Sick
Yeast Infections in Children
Chronic Pain
Full Listing with story descriptions
Managing Your Pain
Movement Matters
Moving Forward
Pain Medications
Returning to Work
Understanding and Goal Setting
When Pain Doesn't End
Dental Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
Antibiotics and Dental Surgery
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby Teeth
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Children's Dental Injuries
Choosing a Dentist
Cosmetic Dentistry
Mouth Guards
Dental Exam
Dental Care Devices
Dental Caries
Dental Implants
Dental X-Rays
Dentures and Healthy Jaw
Esthetic Dentistry
Fluoride Findings
First Dental Visit
A Healthy Mouth
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Jaw Joint and Muscle Problems
Keeping it Clean
Laser Use in Dentistry
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral health and long term care
Oral Health Care Products
Orthodontist First Visit
Painless Dentistry
Periodontal Disease
Removable Dentures
Root Canal
Seniors Oral Care
Sensitive Teeth
Sore Mouth, Aching Jaw
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Teeth for Life
Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
Tobacco Risks to Oral Health
Tongue Piercing
Tooth Whitening
Travel Dentistry
Water Fluoridation
Wisdom Teeth
Your Healthy Smile
Full Listing with story descriptions
10,000 Steps
A1C Test
A Diabetes Success Story
ABCs of Diabetes Management
Alternate Site Testing
Artery Health
ASA Therapy
Benefits of Insulin
Benefits of Breakfast
Blood Glucose Medications
Blood Glucose Myths
Blood Glucose Testing
Blood Sugar Lows
Blood Glucose Monitors
C-Peptide Testing
Canada Food Guide Revisited
Carbohydrate Counting
Catastrophic Drug Plan
CDA Guidelines for Diabetes
Celiac Disease and Diabetes
Celebrating Health
Childhood Diagnosis of Diabetes
Children and Type 2 Diabetes
Cholesterol-lowering Medications
Colds and Diabetes
Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring
Cutting Edge
Dangers of Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure
Driving and Diabetes
Diabetes and Menopause
Diabetes Care Team
Diabetes and Depression
Diabetes Distress
Diabetes Eating on a Shoestring Budget
Diabetes Etiquette
Diabetes and Oral Health
Diabetes and Thyroid Disease
Diabetes and Your Mouth
Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetes in Cats
Diabetes in Dogs
Diabetes Management ABCs
Diabetes Meter Technicians
Diabetes Myths
Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Diabetic Retinopathy
Diet Tips for South Asians
Dining Out with Diabetes
Drinking and Diabetes
Eating Disorders
Easing the Strain of Stress
Eating Mindfully
Eating to Protect Your Kidneys
Eating Well During Shift Work
Eggs in a Diabetic Diet
Emotional Eating
Emotions of Diabetes Diagnosis
Erectile Dysfunction
Exercise Excuses
Why Fad Diets Fail
Fill Your Day with Energy
Diabetic Retinopathy
Food Temptation
Foot Care
Foot Health
Footwear and Foot Health
Fruits and Veggies
Gestational Diabetes
Get Active
Get Physical
Gift Ideas
Glucose Meters
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Loads
The Glycemic Index
Going Green in the Kitchen
Going Home from the Hospital
Grocery Shopping Tips
Holiday Party Survival Guide
Health Information on the 'Net
Healthy Happy Holidays
Healthy Beverage Choices
Health Benefits of Soy
Healthy Restaurant Meals
High Blood Pressure and Diabetes
High Blood Pressure
HbA1c Test
Healthy Eating for Active People
High Blood Lipids
Home from the Hospital
Home Alone and Sick
Hypoglycemic Unawareness
Impaired Glucose Tolerance
Immunization and Diabetes
Incretins-a Hormone Treatment
Injecting Insulin
Insulin Discovery-The Story
Insulin Handling
Insulin - the Key to Energy Management
Insulin Pumps
Insulin Pen Needles
Insulin Pump Infusion Sets
Insulin Pump Therapy
Immunization and Diabetes
Internet Health Sites
Islet Cell Transplantation
Kidney Disease - Reducing the Risk
Living Powerfully with Diabetes
Low Blood Glucose
Managing Diabetes
Managing Blood Glucose
Mental Health and Diabetes
Nutrition Food Labels
Meal Planning
Your Medication Expert
Medication Research Studies
Metabolic Syndrome
New Diabetes Technologies
Natural Medicines and Diabetes
No Need for Insulin?
Not Snoozing
Oral Health and Diabetes
Osteoporosis and Diabetes
Diabetes and OTC Medications
Pedicure Precautions
Pain of Walking - Peripheral Arterial Disease
Pet Diabetes
Planning for Pregnancy
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Preparing for Activity
Putting off Insulin
Reducing Stress of Surgery
Safe and Successful Travel
Schizophrenia and Diabetes
Setting Health Goals
Setting Goals for Physical Activity
Sharps Disposal
Shorter Insulin Needles
Sleep - a Missing Link
Smart Snacking
Smart Summer Nutrition
Snack Bars
Snacking with Diabetes
Social Media and Diabetes
Stress and Diabetes
Success in School
Supporting Spouse with Diabetes
Sugar, Carbs and Blood Glucose Control
Think Positive with Diabetes
Tiny Bites Equal Big Calories
Travelling with Diabetes
Tips for a Better You
Tobacco Use and Diabetes
Top 10 Reasons to Exercise
Treating Low Blood Glucose
Treating Hypoglycemia - Role of Glucagon
Tune up Your Diet
Type 1.5 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes
Understanding Diabetes Medications
Urinary Incontinence
Vacationing with Diabetes
Vegetarian Eating for Diabetes
Vitamin D
Wonderful Water
World Diabetes Day
Working Toward a Cure
Your Medicine Cupboard
Zimbabwe Hand Jive
Family Medicine
Full Listing with story descriptions
ADHD in Children
Allergic Rhinitis
Antibiotic Use
Aspirin Every Day?
Back Pain
Back Pain Myths
Back Pain - Lower
Birth Control
Bladder Problems
Blood Transfusions
Breaast and Prostate Cancer Screening
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Colon Cancer Screening
Contact Lenses
Diabetes Management
Diagnostic Tests
Doctor Visit
Driving Vision
Dealing with Dry Eyes
Electronic Medical Records
Eye Exam
Family Doctor
Floaters and Flashes
Food Poisoning
5 Ways to Stay Healthy
Get Active!
Healthcare Teams
Heart Health
Hepatitis C
Human Papilloma Virus
High Blood Pressure
How to Talk to Your Doctor
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Joint Replacement Surgery
Kidney Disease
Lazy Eye Blindness (Amblyopia)
Medical Digital Technology
Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Myeloma
Opioid Myths
Primary Healthcare Reform
Prostate Problems
Quitting Smoking
Red Eyes
Respiratory Tract Infections
Screening Tests
Special Diagnostic Tests
Sports Eye Injuries
Stopping Stroke
Urine Tests
Win by Losing
Urinary Incontinence
Urinary Tract Infections
Vision Flickers
First Aid
Full Listing with story descriptions
Bites and Stings
Cuts and Scrapes
Emergency Care Guidelines
Eye Injuries
Fainting and Convulsions
First Aid Travel Kit
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Poisoning - Household
Growing Older
Full Listing with story descriptions
Advance Care Plans
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Alzheimer Disease
Avoiding Memory Loss
Building Strength
Caring for the Caregiver
Can I see Well Enough to Drive?
Congestive Heart Failure
Coping with Dementia
Controlling Medications
Diagnosing Dementia
Dementia and Agitation
Dizziness (Vertigo)
Eating Well
Elder Abuse
Exercise Benefits
Erectile Dysfunction
Eye Care
Eyesight and Driving
Fungal Nail Infections
Get Active!
Have Health, Will Travel
Health Tips for Seniors
Joint Replacement
Lab Tests
Living Longer With Diabetes
Macular Degeneration
Male Menopause (Andropause)
Maintaining Quality of Life as You Age
Memory Loss
New Corneal Treatments
Nutrition for Seniors
Parkinson Disease
Problem Gambling
Prostate Health
Seniors and Medications
Senior Sexuality
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Screening Tests
Seniors and Driving
Skin Structure
Skin Protection
Skin Over 50
Solving Sleep Issues
Staying Healthy
Stroke Prevention
Travel Tips for Snowbirds
Wills and Personal Directives
Modern Living
Full Listing with story descriptions
Adult ADHD
Aging and Memory
Alcohol and Your Health
Anger Management
Barbecue Basics
Bathtub Safety
Binge Drinking
Bisphenol A
Canada's New Blood System
Caring for a Loved One Dying at Home
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Computer Stress
Coping With Change
Cosmetic Surgery
Cosmetic Pesticides
Diabetes Epidemic
Diseases from Pets
Dying at Home
Erectile Dysfunction New Treatments
Exotic Travel
Fertility Issues
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Foodborne Illness
Flu Pandemic
Healing Through Music
Healthy Computing
Ice Safety
Indoor Air Quality
Mature Student
Melamine in Food
Middle Age Health
Mind-Body Connection
Mom Time
Money Matters
Outdoor Workers and Sun Safety
Patient Safety in the Hospital
Pets and Health Benefits
Pet Therapy
Physiotherapy Visit
Planning for End of LIfe
Reproductive Freedom
Safe Drinking Water
Smokeless Tobacco
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Stigma of Mental Illness
Street Drugs
Stressed or Depressed?
Stress in the Workplace
Stress Leave
Swim to Survive
Time Management
Travel Health Protection
Travel Comfort Tips
Travel Immunization
Understanding Change
Wind Chill Index
Workplace Drug Testing
Workplace Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
5 Myths about Nutrition and Diabetes
5 Tips to Manage Weight
10 Ways to Cut Down on Fat
Battle the Bulge
Boost Your Bone Strength
Body Image
Breakfast is Important
Bowel Health
Building Your Bones
Celiac Disease
Challenging the Milk Myth
Diet Reality Check
Drink Up!
Eating Smarter and Cheaper
Energy Drinks
Food Allergies
Food for Active Kids
Fast Food
Food Labels
Giving Up Gluten
Healthy Diet, Healthy Smile
Healthy Eating for Boomers and Zoomers
Healthy Eating for Seniors
Healthy Eating on Business Travel
Healthy Ethnic Meals
Fad Diets
Fruits and Veggies - 5-10 a Day
Fat Phobias
Fats and Cholesterol
Feeding Your Kids
Food Chemistry 101
Food and Mood
Getting Kids to MOVE
Healthy Eating for Teens
Healthy Habits
Herbal Medicine and Nutrition
New Ingredients for Your Shopping Cart
Kid's Food
Liquid Candy
Meal Planning with Planned Overs
Meal Planning for Busy Families
Mercury Levels in Fish
Night Snacking
Night Shift Eating
Nutrition on the Net
Nutrition Myths Busted
Nutrition Questions Top 5
Nutrition for Menopause
Essential Omega-3
Preventing Cancer Through Nutrition
Picky Eaters
Power of Fruits and Veggies
Portion Control
Power Lunch
PMS and Nutrition
Preparing for Surgery
Reducing High Blood Pressure
Replacement Meals
Sensible Snacking
Sodium and Blood Pressure
Sports-Minded Nutrition
Sugar Substitutes
Survive and Thrive
Teen Nutrition
Tips for a SuperDiet
Understanding Food Biotechnology
Vacation Eating
Vitamins D
Vitamins and Minerals
Vegetarian Diet
Weight Loss Wisdom
Weight Loss
Weight Wise Tips
Pharmacy Care
Full Listing with story descriptions
After a Heart Attack
Adverse Drug Reactions
Adult Vaccinations
Allergy Attack
Antibiotic Overuse
New Anticoagulant Medications
Inhaled Asthma medications
Arthritis Medications
Biological Response Modifiers
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Blood Thinners
Calcium and Iron Supplements
Changing Role of the Pharmacist
Children's Cold Remedies
Child's Fever
Choosing Sunscreens
Cold Relief
Cold Sores
Constipation and Haemorrhoids
Diuretics and Potassium Supplements
Drug Recalls and Withdrawals
Drug Interactions
Emergency Contraception
Erectile Dysfunction
Expanding Role of Pharmacies
Eye Protection - Sunglasses
Feminine Hygiene
Generic or Name Brand?
Heart Health
Kids and Cold Medications
Medication Questions?
Metabolic Syndrome
Natural Medicines
New Blood Thinners
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Obesity Medication
Over-the-Counter Drugs
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
Over-the-Counter Drugs and Pregnancy
OTC Pain Relief
Packing Medications for Travel
Pharmaceutical Studies
Preventing Summer Hazards
Research Studies
Quit Smoking
Skin and Cosmeceuticals
Sports and Nutrition Supplements
Taking Medication
Take as Directed
Using Antibiotics Wisely
Vitamin D
Yeast Infections
Your Best Shot
Your Medicine Cupboard
Full Listing with story descriptions
Accident Prevention
Antibiotic Resistance
Backpack Pain
Bacteria Fight Back
Disaster Planning
Diseases from Pets
Cell Phones and Driving
Childhood Obesity
Cancer Prevention Tips
Chronic Disease Prevention
Cold and Flu Season
Disaster Planning
Diseases from Pets
Distracted Driving
Farm Safety for City Kids
Foodborne Illness
Flu Pandemic
The Flu and You
Heading Home for a Visit
Health Tips for Snowbirds
Hearing Loss and Music Players
H1N1 Virus - Plan Ahead
Household Mould
Infection Control
Injury Prevention
Live Actively!
Insect Repellant
Keys to Preventing Cancer
Kids' Mental Health
Live Actively!
Low Birth Weight
Are Pesticides Safe?
Preventing Burns and Scalds
Preventing Cancer through Nutrition
Quit Smoking 101
Respiratory Infections
Seniors and STIs
Should You Immunize?
Sun Safety
Surviving Disaster
Sushi Preparation
Teens, Drugs and Driving
Travel Health Considerations
Travel Medicine 101
Travel Tips
Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
Water Smarts
Vision Damage
Water Wisdom
West Nile Disease
Whooping Cough
Workplace Alcohol Abuse
Women's Health
Full Listing with story descriptions
15 Great Reasons to Breastfeed
Approaching Menopause
Birth Control
Breast Cancer Screening
Breast Cancer - Genetic Risks
Breast Cancer Self-Exam
Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Changes
Breast Health
Breastfeeding Myths
Cervical Cancer Screening
Contraception for Mature Women
Cosmetic Procedures
Estrogen's Effect on the Brain
Fear of Fracture
Heart Attack
Hirsutism - Unwanted Hair
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Menopause - What Men Should Know
Menopause and Your Moods
Menstrual Bleeding - Abnormal
Menstrual Bleeding - Heavy
Menstruation Myths
Menstrual Pain
Third Generation Birth Control Pills
Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian Cysts
Oral Contraction (The Pill)
Pap Test
Premenstrual Syndrome
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Urinary Incontinence
Varicose Veins
Viagra for Women
Yeast Infections
Your Pelvic Floor
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
spacer   spacer pharmacy image pharmacy
Family Health Magazine - WOMEN'S HEALTH

Screening for Breast Cancer
How to do a breast self-examination

Many women worry about breast cancer, both as a concern for themselves and for the increased occurrence among women in general. Fortunately there are things individual women can do to increase the chance of early detection and cure.

Although the number of women getting breast cancer each year is rising worldwide, the number of women in Canada who die from the disease has been declining since 1990. Once the most common fatal cancer in women, it has fallen to being the second most common. One reason for this change is widespread screening programs that help to pick up breast cancer early, increasing the chances of cure. If the cancer is confined to the breast at the time it is discovered, the chance of cure is 70 to 90 per cent. Improved treatments are also playing an important role in reducing deaths from breast cancer.

Who is at risk of breast cancer?

The two biggest risk factors that predict breast cancer are being female and getting older. In women younger than 30, the risk is low at 0.3 per cent (3 in 1,000). Over the age of 50 the risk increases to 2 per cent (1 in 50). By the time women are over the age of 85 the risk has risen to 10 per cent (1 in 10). The likelihood also rises when a close female relative (mother, sister or daughter) has had breast cancer or when there is a history of exposure to a high dose of radiation before the age of 30. Other conditions that increase risk slightly include a history of benign breast disease, high alcohol intake, women who have had no children or had their first pregnancy after 30, women whose first menstrual period was at a young age or whose menopause is late in life. Although hormone replacement therapy after menopause may increase the risk slightly, birth control pills have not been shown to increase the risk.

Despite all of these things that may predict a person getting breast cancer, no one is guaranteed free of risk. One in every nine Canadian women is affected over a lifetime and even men can be affected!

What about screening to detect breast cancer?

The goal of screening in healthy women is to detect cancer early to increase the chances of survival and cure.

Screening for breast cancer has three important parts: breast self examination (BSE), clinical breast examination(CBE) by your doctor and mammography (or special x-ray of the breast).

Breast self examination

What is it?

Breast self examination (BSE) is a way for you to examine your breasts routinely and methodically for changes. This is how most breast cancer was found before breast screening programs were started. In fact, 69 to 80 per cent of breast cancers are still found during self-examination.

Why do BSE?

With regular examination you will become familiar with your normal breast structure. This increases the probability of detecting a new lump when it is still small and has not spread outside the breast. If a lump is cancerous and is confined to the breast, it is much easier to treat than if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes (particularly under the armpit) or other body organs.

Scientific study has shown BSE can save lives when done properly. The value of BSE is greatly increased by proper. The three elements of successful BSE are:

  1. Use the middle three fingers.
  2. Use the pads of the fingers, not the tips. Examine with fingers straight, don’t bend fingers.
  3. Visual inspection - look carefully at the breast. Who should do BSE and how often should it be done?
    All women over the age of 20 should do monthly self-examinations. If you are still having menstrual periods it is best to perform the examination at the time in the cycle when the breasts are least swollen, which is 10 to 14 days after the first day of a period. This way a lump may stand out more readily if it is there.

Regular, monthly BSEs can be done any day of the month if you are no longer menstruating. Some women choose to do BSE the same day each month (such as the first or last day of the month).

Many women are anxious about doing BSEs as they are unsure what “normal” breast tissue feels like. They fear they might not recognize a significant breast lump (especially women with naturally lumpy breasts). Normal breast tissue can feel soft, firm, smooth or lumpy. Because of the differences in the feel of breast tissue, it is important for you to become aware of what your breasts normally feel like. Regular self-examinations over the years will help you to be confident that you can find a worrisome change in your breast.

What if you find a lump in your breast?

If you find a lump or tender area, it should be checked by your doctor. About 85 per cent of lumps detected are benign (not cancer). They are most often fluid-filled cysts or solid lumps called fibroadenomas. They are often found on BSE and may cause pain.

Careful examination by your doctor can often given an indication of the seriousness of a lump in your breast. Sometimes further testing such as ultrasound, mammography, withdrawing fluid from the lump or a tissue sample is needed to help make a diagnosis.

Clinical Breast Examination (CBE)

Clinical breast examination follows the techniques of BSE but is done by a doctor at regular examinations or at times of concern. If you do BSE, examination by a doctor is also a “second opinion” of your own impression of your breast tissue. In either case, CBE is also an opportunity to review proper breast self examination. Regular clinical examination by your doctor is an important part of your breast cancer screening program.


Mammography is a low dose x-ray exam of the breast. Like regular BSE and CBE, mammography is used in hopes of detecting breast cancer early.

Who should have a mammogram?

There are two types of mammograms:

  1. a screening type
  2. a diagnostic type

The difference between these two tests relates to their purpose. A screening mammogram is done at a particular time in a woman’s life when no abnormality is suspected. A diagnostic mammogram is ordered when a problem is suspected and it often requires a more detailed examination.

It is currently recommended that all women between the ages of 50 and 69 have screening mammograms every two years (along with annual CBE and monthly BSE).

There remains much controversy about doing screening mammograms in women from 40 to 49 years old. At the moment, however, it is not recommended in Canada.

For women under the age of 50, there may be some benefit to screening mammograms if certain risk factors are present. If there is a strong family history of breast cancer, for instance, screening mammograms should start five to 10 years earlier than the age at which the youngest family member was diagnosed. Again, it is important that this screening be done in collaboration with regular BSE and CBE. If you are in this risk group, a personalized breast care schedule should be discussed with your family doctor. Women who decide to screen before age 50 are usually advised by their doctor to have a yearly mammogram.

A diagnostic mammogram may be necessary when a lump is detected, by whatever method, or if there are symptoms such as breast pain, nipple discharge or skin abnormality.

Mammography does help to detect cancers early but it is not a perfect test. Sometimes it suggests cancer when it is not there and sometimes it does not pick up cancer in the breast of those who have the disease. These are important reasons to limit screening of women at higher risk and the age groups of women for whom routine mammography has been proven to be beneficial. This approach helps to minimize misdiagnosis and anxiety related to the test.

What is involved when someone goes for a mammogram?

The screening mammogram takes about 10 minutes and is done by a trained technologist. The breasts are x-rayed one at a time. After proper positioning of the breast, it is compressed to spread out the breast tissue. In this way, small lumps can be detected more easily. The compression only lasts a few seconds, but it may cause some discomfort.

Once the films are taken, a radiologist (an x-ray specialist) reviews the films and compares to previous mammograms, if they are available. Further x-rays may be suggested if an area of concern needs to be examined more closely.

What about radiation from the x-rays?

Given that radiation exposure is a risk factor for developing cancer, many patients worry about radiation received during a mammogram (a woman may have several screening mammograms in her lifetime). In women over 40 years there appears to be no increased risk and it is very small for women in their 20s and 30s. Its use in young women and children is reserved but it is considered a safe test in women over 40.

Other methods of detection

Genetic testing is being studied and may be able to identify women at risk for certain types of breast cancer. This research is ongoing and this type of testing is not yet generally available.

Research continues in the area of breast cancer screening and treatment. This research provides women with information and tools to deal with the many areas of breast disease. A good relationship with a family doctor, regular visits and patient education are important steps in the prevention of breast cancer and for the best chances of survival if it is found.

Key Points

  • Widespread screening of selected women including mammography seems to be detecting more breast cancer at an earlier stage in the disease increasing the likelihood of successful treatment.
  • The number of women dying from breast cancer is decreasing.
  • For women between the ages of 50 and 69, it is important to follow the three steps of:
    1. regular monthly self-examination (BSE)
    2. regular yearly examination by a doctor (CBE) and,
    3. screening mammography in order to maximize the chance of detecting breast cancer early.
  • More women in the 50-69 age group need to take advantage of breast cancer screening. Many provinces have government-run early detection programs that offer the high quality and consistency of care making these clinics an excellent resource for women.
  • For a woman younger than 50, regular BSE may help in early detection and a personalized breast care plan should be discussed with her doctor based on an “individual” risk for getting breast cancer.
  • If you find a lump or a change in your breast, have it checked as soon as possible by your doctor.
  • Proper technique for BSE is very important and it should be reviewed if you have any concerns. Three characteristics of effective BSE are: using the flat part of the fingers, the middle three fingers and careful visual inspection.
  • Additional information about assessing and reducing your risk for breast cancer can be obtained through your family doctor, local health unit or the Canadian Cancer Society. With practice you can see or feel changes in your breast.

1. Visual Check

  • Stand in front of a mirror and look at your breasts carefully - first face forward and then turn slowly side to side.
  • Lift your arms above your head and behind your ears. If you have pendulous breasts you may need to lift them up to see the lower halves.
  • Lower your hands part-way and squeeze your palms together.

2. Hand Check


Use the opposite hand for each breast.

  • Use a flat hand. Bend your wrist, not your fingers, to go over curves. Apply moderate pressure and keep constant contact with your skin.
  • Move back and forth across the breast in a straight line pattern, making constant small circles. Slide your hand down one finger width for each pass. Cover the full area indicated.
  • Check the area under your arm. Relax your arm, place your hand under it, making the same small circular movements as before.

3. Hand Check -Lying Down

  • In the last steps of BSE, lie down on a firm surface. Use exactly the same steps used when standing. It is not necessary to check your underarm while lying down.

What are you checking for? If you feel anything that is a different texture or movement than what you have felt before, consult your doctor. Remember that it may be normal for your breasts to be lumpy - you’re checking for something that wasn’t there last month.

FAMILY HEALTH is written with the assistance of
Alberta College of Family Physicians
FAMILY HEALTH is written with the assistance of
Alberta College of Family Physicians
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2019, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 0S1    [WH_FHb91]
Safeway Med Advisor / Safeway Pharmacy logos
Safeway Med Advisor / Safeway Pharmacy logos