Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. Women should be told about the benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should report any breast change to their health professional right away.
Research has shown that BSE plays a small role in finding breast cancer compared with finding a breast lump by chance or simply being aware of what is normal for each woman. Some women feel very comfortable doing BSE regularly (usually monthly after their period) which involves a systematic step-by-step approach to examining the look and feel of their breasts. Other women are more comfortable simply looking and feeling their breasts in a less systematic approach, such as while showering or getting dressed or doing an occasional thorough exam.
Sometimes, women are so concerned about “doing it right” that they become stressed over the technique. Doing BSE regularly is one way for women to know how their breasts normally look and feel and to notice any change. The goal, with or without BSE, is to report any breast change to a doctor or nurse right away.
Women who choose to do BSE should have their BSE technique reviewed during their physical exam by a health professional. It is okay for women to choose not to do BSE or not to do it on a regular schedule. However, by doing the exam regularly, you get to know how your breasts normally look and feel and you can more readily detect any signs or symptoms if a change occurs, such as development of a lump or swelling, skin irritation or dimpling, nipple pain or retraction (turning inward), redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin, or a discharge other than breast milk. Should you notice any changes you should see your health care provider as soon as possible for evaluation. Remember that most of the time, however, these breast changes are not cancer.
In the Shower
• Fingers flat move gently over every part of each breast.
• Use your right hand to examine left breast, left hand for right breast.
• Check for any lump, hard knot or thickening. Carefully observe any changes in your breasts.
Infront of the Mirror
- Stand in front of the mirror with both arms by your side and look closely at both of your breasts
- Look for changes in size, colour or texture ( these may be signs of inflammatory Breast Cancer).
- Look for any changes in contour of each breast, a swelling, a dimpling of skin or changes in the nipple. Then rest palm on hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match – few women’s breasts do.
- Place pillow under right shoulder, right arm behind your head. With fingers of left hand flat, press right breast gently in small circular motions, moving vertically or in a circular pattern covering the entire breast
- Pay attention to any change (lumps, bumpy texture. Tenderness)
- Use light, medium and firm pressure. Gently press the nipple and check for discharge and changes in the nipple itself.
- After you examine your breast, move to your underarm (lymph node area) and look for changes there.
- Follow the same procedure on your left side.
Examine your entire breast and under arm area. If you do notice any changes or lumps don’t panic. Most lumps are benign fibro adenomas or cysts.
If you examine your breast every month you become familiar with the way they feel and look. That makes it easier to notice any changes
Make sure to tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your breasts.