If a breast self-examination is performed accurately and regularly it may help in early detection of some forms of breast cancers. However a BSE should not substitute for proven effective screening methods such as mammography and MRI.
How to perform a breast self-examination
- Stand in front of a mirror with chest exposed.
- Place hands on hips.
- Look for signs of dimpling, swelling, soreness, or redness in all parts of your breasts in the mirror.
- Repeat with arms raised above your head.
- While still standing, palpate your breasts with your fingers, feeling for lumps.
- Try to use a larger area of your fingers rather than prodding. Feel both for the area just beneath the skin and for the tissue deeper within.
- Go over the entire breast while examining. One method is to divide the breast into quadrants and palpate each quadrant carefully. Also examine the “axillary tail” of each breast that extends toward the axilla (armpit).
- Repeat palpation while lying down.
- Check the nipples and the area just beneath them. Gently squeeze each nipple to check for any discharge.
Premenopausal women should perform BSE around the same time as their period to minimize changes to the breasts due to the menstrual cycle. The recommended time is just after the end of the last period when the breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. Menopausal women should perform BSE once a month.
Immediately report any abnormalities to your healthcare professional. Breast self-examination should be combined with an annual exam performed by your healthcare professional for better chances of detection. Being that it’s easy to miss a lump, learning BSE from an expert will make it easier to detect. Make an appointment with your healthcare professional to learn the correct way to self-examine your breasts.
For more information…
- Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
- National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
- National Breast Cancer Foundation
- Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Center
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