Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Ask A Nurse... Do I Still Need to Do a Self-Exam if I Get a Mammogram?

October 14, 2016 | By Lisa Schwenk
Published in: Question Answer, Imaging, Women

Self-exams are important because early detection saves lives

Breast Cancer navigator Donna Berdeaux
Donna Berdeaux, RN, BSN

Answer provided by Donna Berdeaux, RN, BSN, breast cancer navigator with the Augusta Health Cancer Program in the Augusta Health Cancer Center, a DukeHealth Affiliate.

Ms. Berdeaux graduated from Eastern Mennonite University, and has 22 years of experience as a nurse. She is also a 10-year Cancer Survivor. She is married with three teenage sons, and enjoys spending time with her family and collecting antique bottles.

Contact the Augusta Health Cancer Center at (540) 332-5960. For information about breast cancer and self-exams, contact Donna Berdeaux at dberdeaux [at]

Yes, you do, and this is why…

The answer is Breast Self-Awareness. You need to know what is 'normal' for your breasts, and what that feels like. By that, I mean you should be familiar with the shape and size of your breasts, as well as the texture of your breasts. There are also some breast cancers that do not show up on mammograms, but can be felt.

The best and most complete screening process is to combine regular medical care, a mammogram as recommended by the appropriate guideline, and monthly breast self-exams.

  • Mammography can detect breast cancer before it can be felt, so a yearly mammogram is very important for early detection.
  • Monthly breast self-exams are important because you can determine, between mammograms, if what you are feeling is normal or abnormal, and alert your health care professional if you notice any changes.

You should notify you doctor if you notice any of these changes in your breasts or nipples:

  • Any discharge
  • An unexplained change in size or shape
  • Dimpling or puckering
  • Lump
  • Tenderness
  • Redness or warmth
  • Itching, scaly skin

If you have any questions about how to perform a self-exam, please discuss it with your physician as soon as possible. Early detection is the best protection: If breast cancer is found and treated early, there is a greater range of treatment options available and better outcomes for the patient.