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Breast Health

Good Breast Health is 12 Months of the Year

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Between the events, walks and news stories, breast cancer awareness and prevention is often heard over these few weeks.  However, awareness and prevention of breast cancer can’t just be one month a year, it has to be a habit that women include in their routine every month.
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To help women be more awareness of their breast health, here are a few tips for women by age group:
Women, Age Group Type of Exam Frequency of Exam
All Women, 18+ Self Breast Exam Monthly
All Women, 20-39 Clinical Breast Exam Every Three Years
All Women, 35-39 Baseline Mammography Once
All Women, 40+ Clinical Breast Exam Every Year
All Women, 40-49 Screening Mammography Every 1-3 Years
All Women, 50-75 Screening Mammography Every Year

Self Breast Exam

To perform a self breast exam, lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. Using the finger pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand, feel around for any lumps in the right breast. Press firmly but gently. If you're not sure how hard to press, talk with a healthcare professional to learn the correct technique. Make sure you cover the entire breast, chest and armpit area. You're checking for:
  • lumps
  • changes in appearance including puckering and dimples
  • changes in size or shape
  • pushed-in or misshapen nipples
Reverse arm positions and repeat this procedure on your left breast.
You can also examine your breasts while standing or in the shower, with your one arm behind your head. Again, make sure you cover the entire breast, as well as the chest and armpit area. You can do this standing examination in the shower. 
If you find an abnormality, don’t panic. Keep in mind that most lumps in the breast are not cancer, although any lump should always be examined by a qualified physician at once. 

Clinical Breast Exam

A clinical breast examination is a breast examination performed by a doctor or nurse practitioner. During this exam, the doctor or nurse practitioner will talk with you about any potential symptoms, examine your breasts visually and check the condition of the skin, examine the nipples for any issues such as discharge, and then palpate or feel the deeper tissue of each breast, as well as the armpit area.


Mammograms can actually detect any breast abnormalities before you can actually feel them. 
There are different ways mammograms are used:
Screening mammograms - Screening mammograms are done on a regular basis, compared to your previous mammogram, and used to check for potential abnormalities.
Diagnostic mammograms - A diagnostic mammogram is done when you or your doctor detect a suspicious lump or other problem.
Mammograms allow the doctor to have a closer look for breast lumps and changes in breast tissue and will show small lumps or growths that a doctor or woman may not be able to feel when doing a breast exam. When reading a mammogram, doctors look for abnormalities, as well as changes from previous mammograms.
Women should be aware of their breast health every month of the year and talk to their doctor if they notice any changes.
Remember, when found early, breast cancer is most treatable. The correct use of self-examination, professional exams and mammography can help provide the best chance for survival of breast cancer.

Ellis Medicine offers mammography at Bellevue Woman’s Center in Niskayuna and Ellis Health Center in Schenectady. Appointments can be made online at or by calling 518.243.3333.