Cover Image
close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 10: Staying Healthy
close this folderSpecial Needs of Women
View the documentRest and exercise
View the documentRegular health exams
View the documentSafer sex
View the documentFamily planning
View the documentGood care during pregnancy and birth
View the documentVaccinations against tetanus
View the documentRegular breast exams

Regular breast exams

Most women have some small lumps in their breasts. These lumps often change in size and shape during her monthly cycle. They can become very tender just before a woman’s monthly bleeding. Sometimes - but not very often - a breast lump that does not go away can be a sign of breast cancer.

¨ A woman should examine her breasts every month, even after her monthly bleeding has stopped forever.

A woman can usually find breast lumps herself if she learns how to examine her breasts. If she does this once a month, she will become familiar with how her breasts feel, and will be more likely to know when something is wrong.

¨ If a woman has a disability that makes examining her breasts difficult, she can ask someone she trusts to do it for her.

How to examine your breasts

Look at your breasts in a mirror, if you have one. Raise your arms over your head. Look for any change in the shape of your breasts, or any swelling or changes in the skin or nipple. Then put your arms at your sides and check your breasts again.


Lie down. Keeping your fingers flat, press your breast and feel for any lumps.


Be sure to touch every part of your breast. It helps to use the same pattern every month.


What to do if you find a lump

If the lump is smooth or rubbery, and moves under the skin when you push it with your fingers, do not worry about it. But if it is hard, has an uneven shape, and is painless, keep watching it - especially if the lump is in only one breast and does not move even when you push it. See a health worker if the lump is still there after your next monthly bleeding. This may be a sign of cancer. You should also get medical help if there is a discharge that looks like blood or pus.

Things to Avoid to Stay Healthy

Tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs can all be bad for a woman’s health.