Examination or BSE takes just a few minutes, and you only need to
do it once a month. Remember, while a change in the look or feel
of your breast does not automatically mean you have breast cancer,
it is important to report any change to your doctor for further
Look For These Signs and Symptoms
lump or thickening in the breast or armpit
change in the size or shape of the breast
(or indentation) of the skin
from the nipple
in the nipple
change in the color or feel of skin
around the nipple
As you do this
examination remember that some lumpiness is normal for many women.
Self-examination helps you become familiar with the normal texture
of your breast tissue. Compare the feel of one breast with the same
site on the other breast. They should be similar. Follow the step-by-step
instructions below for both visual and feeling breast self exam.
Refer to the diagrams as reference. Review your technique with your
physician to refine your technique and have your questions answered.
stand in front of a mirror, keeping your arms relaxed at
your sides. Notice the shape and size of your breasts. Compare
both breasts. It is not unusual for one to be larger than
look at your skin. Take note of the texture and color. Changes
in shape and size occur.
on hips. Look at the same things with your arms in different
the area within the dotted line. This is the area you need
examine your right breast, lie on your back. Place a pillow
or a folded towel under your right shoulder. Put your right
arm out, with your elbow at a 90 degree angle. This position
flattens the breast and makes it easier to examine.
the padded area of your finger, not the tips. Use the pads
of three or four fingers of your left had to examine your
your fingers in very small circles. For each small circle,
change the amount of pressure so you can feel all levels
of your breast tissue.
lift your fingers from your breast as you move them; you
might miss something that way.
a pattern of vertical strips. Cover the self-exam area in
vertical strips. Start in your armpit and move down to just
below your breast. Some women use lotion to make it easier
for their fingers to slide over their skin
move your fingers over- just the width of one finger- and
move up again. Continue this up-and-down pattern until you
have covered the entire self-exam area, from your collarbone
to just below your breast.
your arm and examine your armpit. Some parts of your breast
go up into your armpit. Examine this area again, with your
arm relaxed at your side. It will feel a little different
in this position.
check for fluid coming from your nipple, gently squeeze
your nipple. Clear or milky fluid coming from the nipple
is more common than bloody fluid. All nipple discharge should
be checked by your doctor.
steps for the feeling exam using your right hand to examine
your left breast.
women find it helpful to repeat the above examination steps
while in the shower or bath.
Do the Breast Self Exam?
There are many
good reasons for doing a breast self exam each month. One reason
is that it is easy to do and the more you do it, the better you
will get at it. When you get to know how your breasts normally feel,
you will quickly be able to feel any change, and early detection
is the key to successful treatment and cure.
A breast self-exam
could save your breast and your life. Women themselves find most
breast lumps. Although most lumps in the breast are not cancer,
it's best to be safe and be sure.
if a Lump is Found?
a lump is found either through mammography, physical examination
by a trained health professional or by breast self examination,
your doctor may suggest additional tests to establish an accurate
diagnosis. For example, an ultrasound, which uses sound waves to
record images of the breast, may help determine if the lump is a
cyst (fluid-filled) or solid mass. If the lump appears to be a cyst
(a sac filled with fluid) your physician may insert a needle into
the cyst area to remove the fluid. If it proves to be noncancerous,
nothing further usually needs to be done. If the lump appears to
be solid, a special type of needle biopsy or a surgical biopsy may
be advised. This may require a local or a general anesthetic. All
or part of the lump will be removed for examination under the microscope.
Remember, most biopsies prove the mass to be noncancerous, or benign.