RAO and the American Cancer Society remain vigilant in our efforts to increase breast cancer awareness and help save lives. Caught in its earliest stages, breast cancer can be stopped. It takes just 3 steps to help catch breast cancer early, when it is most easily treated. Protect yourself – and those you love – with the following commonsense practices.


1. Annual mammogram* – Have your baseline mammogram at age 40 and once a year afterward. RAO offers 3D mammograms that we store electronically for comparison so that changes can be discovered early. We offer routine screening mammograms without a doctor’s referral.

*Due to family history, genetic tendencies or other reasons, about 2% of women in the U.S. may need a breast MRI in addition to a mammogram. Ask your doctor if he or she recommends that you have a breast MRI and we will be happy to schedule an appointment.

2. Clinical breast exam – Have your doctor or nurse practitioner examine your breasts as part of your regular health exam. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, once every three years is fine. If you’re 40 or older, have it done once a year.

3. Monthly self-exams – Starting in your 20s, perform a breast self-exam once a month. Get to know what your breast tissue feels like so that you’ll notice any changes. About 40% of breast cancers are found by women during self-exam, so make it a regular part of your month.

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There are three components to performing a thorough self-examination. It takes several minutes to perform it correctly, so take your time and get to know what your breast tissue feels like. Perform these steps each month one week after your period begins, when breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen. If you no longer have periods due to menopause, a hysterectomy or pregnancy, select a day of the month that is easy to remember. If you are nursing, it may be helpful to perform your exam after a feeding when breasts contain as little milk as possible.

Self Exam - In the Shower

Place your right hand behind your head. With your left hand, soap your fingers and place the pads of your three middle fingers on the outside of your right breast and gently move your fingers in a circular motion toward the center, carefully feeling the entire breast and armpit area for any lump, thickening or hard knot. Mentally separate your breast into quadrants and examine each quarter carefully. Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Self Exam - In the mirror

After your shower and before you dress, visually examine your breasts in a large mirror with your arms at your sides. Then slowly raise your arms high over your head, looking for any changes in breast shape, and any swelling, dimpling or puckering of the skin. Next, place your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles, still looking for abnormalities or changes. Most women have one breast that is bigger and/or lower than the other; this is normal. Finally, examine your nipples for any discoloring or swelling. Gently squeeze each one and look for any discharge or changes in the skin.

Self Exam - Lying on your back

Lie down on your back, and place a pillow under your right shoulder with your right arm behind your head. This spreads out your breast tissue. Using your left hand, start at your collarbone and move the pads of your three middle fingers in a small circular motion down to the very bottom of the outside of your breast. Keep your fingers against your skin and move them one finger-width toward the center and repeat the process going upward so that you examine your entire breast in strips. Next repeat the process starting from your armpit and moving from the very top of your breast inward to your breastbone, then slightly lower and back outward, never lifting your fingers from your skin. As you move your fingers circularly, use three levels of pressure: light, medium, and firm, to feel your breast surface, middle region and the areas resting deep against your breastbone and ribs. It is normal to feel a firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast.

It is also normal for breast tissue to contain some lumps or thick tissue. If you find the same kind of lump or thickness in the same area of your other breast, it is probably a normal part of your breast tissue – this is why it is important to get to know how your breasts feel. Pay close attention to any lump that feels harder than the rest of your breast or appears to be fixed or asymmetrical. Continue until you have covered every area of your breast and inside your armpit.


  • Any new lump or thickness
  • Sticky or bloody discharge from your nipples
  • Any changes, puckering or dimpling in the skin of your breasts or nipples
  • A new increase in the size, or change of the shape or position of one breast

The good news is that most changes are not cancer, but don’t ignore them. Early discovery and treatment are the key to beating breast cancer.

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