Breast Self Examination [BSE]
The American Cancer
Society recommends beginning in their 20s, women should be told about the
benefits and limitations of BSE. Women should be aware of how their breasts
normally look and feel and should report any breast changes to a health
professional as soon as they are found. Finding a breast change does not mean
there is a cancer.
Examining your breasts is an important way to find a breast cancer early, when it's most likely to be cured. Not every cancer can be found this way, but it is a critical step you can and should take for yourself. No woman wants to do a breast self exam (or "BSE"), and for many the experience is frustrating—you may feel things but not know what they mean. However, the more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become for you to tell if something unusual has occurred. BSE is an essential part of taking care of yourself and reducing your risk of breast cancer.
Regularly examining her
own breasts allows a woman to become familiar with how her breasts normally look
and feel and can help her more readily detect any changes that may occur. Many
women naturally have some lumpiness and asymmetry (differences between the right
and left breast). The key to the breast self-exam is to learn how to find
changes in the breasts that persist over time.
Don't panic if you think you feel a lump. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time. Eight out of ten breast lumps that are removed are benign, non-cancerous.
Breast self-exams should be performed once each month beginning at age 20 and continue each month throughout a woman’s lifetime.
The Best Time to Perform
The Five Steps of a Breast Self Exam
Begin by looking at your breasts in
the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
While looking at the mirror, gently squeeze each nipple between your finger and thumb and check for nipple discharge (this could be a milky or yellow fluid or blood).
Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it difficult to examine.