Breast Self-Examination After Treatment

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After treatment for breast cancer, it is especially important for a woman to continue to do monthly breast examinations. Regular examinations will help you detect local recurrences. Early signs of recurrence may appear in the incision area itself, the opposite breast, the axilla (arm pit), or area above the collarbone.

Keeping all follow-up appointments with your doctor is also necessary, so problems can be detected early – when treatment can be most effective. Your healthcare provider can also answer any questions you may have about breast self-examination.

How Do I Examine My Breast(s) After Surgery?
After breast surgery, the incision line (scar) may be thick, raised, red and possibly tender for several months. Remember to examine the entire incision line.

If there is redness in areas away from the scar, contact your physician. It is not unusual to experience brief discomfort and sensations in the breast or nipple area (even if the nipple has been removed).

At first, you may not know how to interpret what you feel, but you'll soon become familiar with what is now normal for you.

How Do I Examine My Breast(s) After Reconstruction?
Following breast reconstruction, breast examination is done exactly the same way as for your natural breast. If an implant was used for the reconstruction, also press firmly inward at the edges of the implant to feel the ribs beneath. If your own tissue was used for the reconstruction, you may feel some numbness and tightness in your breast. Some feeling may return over time.

How Do I Examine My Breast(s) After Radiation Therapy?
After radiation therapy, you may notice some changes in your breast tissue. The breast may look red or sunburned, and may become irritated or inflamed. Once therapy is stopped, the redness should disappear and the breast should become less inflamed or irritated. Sometimes, the skin becomes more inflamed for a few days after treatment, but then gradually improves over a few weeks. The pores in the skin over the breast also may become larger than usual.

Some women have different sensations in the breast because of changes in skin sensitivity. You may feel numbness or tingling in the breast, or feel that the breast is more sensitive to clothing or tight garments. After radiation therapy, the breast may become smaller. Normally within a year after radiation therapy, most of these changes will improve.

During radiation therapy, you should continue with monthly self-examinations of the radiated breast as well as the other breast. If you notice any new developments, call your healthcare provider.

Breast-Health Navigator
Our clinical nurse specialist is here to help answer any breast care questions you may have before, during and after treatment. Call (260) 416-3091 (260) 416-3091 to speak with our breast-health coordinator. Click here for more information.

Report any suspicious changes to your physician. You'll not only receive early treatment, if necessary, but you'll also resolve your own fear and anxiety. Although most breast lumps (about 80 percent) are benign, self-examination may lead you to the early detection of a new or recurrent cancer. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances for successful therapy.