Introduction | Three Step Plan for Preventive Care | How to Perform Breast Self-Examination | Mammography Screening | Myths about Breast Cancer | Breast Anatomy | Benign Breast Conditions | Breast Health Glossary
What is BSE?
Breast self-examination is a procedure performed by an individual to physically and visually examine herself for any changes in the breasts and underarm areas of the body. A BSE alone cannot accurately determine the presence of breast cancer. So, BSE should not be used in place of, but in addition to, clinical breast examination and mammography.
When should BSE be done?
Women should begin practicing breast self-examination by age 20 and continue the practice throughout their lives -- even during pregnancy and after menopause.
Breast self-examination should be performed every month. Become familiar with how your breasts usually look and feel so that you may detect any change from what is normal for you.
Monthly breast self-exams should always include: visual inspection (with and without a mirror) to note any changes in contour or texture; and manual inspection in standing and reclining positions to note any unusual lumps or thicknesses.
How to do BSE:
Lines: Start in the underarm area and move your fingers downward little by little until they are below the breast. Then move your fingers slightly toward the middle and slowly move back up. Go up and down until you cover the whole area.
Circles: Beginning at the outer edge of your breast, move your fingers slowly around the whole breast in a circle. Move around the breast in smaller and smaller circles, gradually working toward the nipple. Don't forget to check the underarm and upper chest areas, too.
Wedges: Starting at the outer edge of the breast, move your fingers toward the nipple and back to the edge. Check your whole breast, covering one small wedge-shaped section at a time. Be sure to check the underarm area and the upper chest.
It is important to repeat step 4 while you are lying down. Lie flat on
your back, with one arm over your head and a pillow or folded towel under
the opposite shoulder. This position flattens the breast and makes it easier
to check. Check each breast and the area around it very carefully using
one of the patterns described above.
Some women repeat step 4 in the shower. Your fingers will glide easily over soapy skin, so you can concentrate on feeling for changes underneath. However, the shower method should be used in addition to, not instead of, the lying down method.
If you notice a lump, discharge, or any other change during the month -- whether or not it is during BSE -- contact your physician as soon as possible.