Breast self-examination (BSE) is a technique that women can use to become familiar with the normal appearance and feel of their breasts. By regularly performing BSE, you can detect any changes in your breasts early on, which can be crucial for early detection of breast cancer. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform a breast self-exam:
1. Visual inspection: Stand in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides. Look at your breasts to check for any changes in their size, shape, or symmetry. Look for any swelling, dimpling, puckering, or changes in the skin texture. Next, raise your arms above your head and inspect your breasts again for the same changes. Finally, place your hands on your hips and press down firmly to flex your chest muscles. This can help you notice any changes that may not be visible when your muscles are relaxed.
2. Lying Down Exam: Lie down on your back with a small pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. This position helps spread the breast tissue evenly across the chest wall, making it easier to feel any abnormalities. Place your right hand behind your head and use the pads of your left-hand fingers (not the fingertips) to feel your right breast.
3. Circular Motion: Using your left hand, feel your right breast using a circular motion with your fingers. Start at the outer edge of your breast and gradually move inwards towards the nipple. You can choose between three methods to cover the entire breast: circular, up-and-down, or wedge pattern. Use light, medium, and firm pressure to feel the different layers of the breast tissue.
4. Check The Nipple: Gently squeeze your nipple between your thumb and forefinger to check for any discharge or abnormalities.
5. Examine The Armpit: Don’t forget to examine the area under your arm, as breast tissue extends to this area. Continue the circular motion, moving up into the armpit.
6. Repeat On The Other Side: Place a pillow or folded towel under your left shoulder and repeat the process, using your right hand to examine your left breast.
Perform BSE once a month, ideally a few days after your menstrual period
ends when your breasts are less tender. If you no longer menstruate, pick a specific day each month to perform the exam.
Remember that while breast self-exams can be helpful, they should not replace regular clinical breast exams and mammograms performed by healthcare professionals. If you notice any changes in your breasts during a self-exam, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.