Breast Self Examination (BSE)
|Remember, BSE Is Not a Substitute For Routine Thermograms Or Regular Checks By A Gynaecologist or Healthcare Practitioner|
- Women should have breast examinations during their routine check-ups.
- You may find it convenient to schedule this exam during your routine physical check-up. If a breast exam is not done during that check-up, you should ask for one.
- During the exam, the health professional feels the breast and underarm with the fingers, checking for lumps. This is called palpation. The breasts also are checked for other changes such as dimpling, scaling, or puckering of the skin or a discharge from the nipples.
- Women 40 and older should have breast examinations annually.
Breast Self-Exam (BSE)
Women should do breast self-examination monthly. Breasts come in all sizes and shapes, just as women do. Your own breasts will even change throughout your life. Your monthly menstrual cycle, menopause, childbirth, breast-feeding, age, weight changes, and birth control pills or other hormones may change the shape, size. and feel of your breasts.
It is important to learn what is normal for you. This can be done by using BSE. It is easy to do, and, as the name implies, you do it yourself. Women taking charge of their own health are doing BSE regularly. They are also eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco use.
BSE is done once a month so that you become familiar with the usual appearance and feel of your own breasts. Familiarity makes it easier to notice any changes in your breasts from one month to another. In fact, some health professionals suggest that, at first, women do BSE every day for a month so that they really know the "geography" of their breasts. Early discovery of a change from what is normal is the whole idea behind BSE.
The best time to do BSE is 2 or 3 days after the end of your period, when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen. A woman who no longer has periods may find it helpful to pick a particular day, such as the first day of the month, to remind herself that it is time to do BSE.
If you discover anything unusual, such as a lump, a discharge from the nipple, or dimpling or puckering of the skin, you should see your doctor at once. Remember, 8 out of 10 biopsied breast lumps are not cancer.
Many women have irregular or "lumpy" breasts. The term "benign breast condition" refers to those changes in a woman's breasts that are not cancerous. Many doctors believe that nearly all women have some benign breast changes after age 30. But any change is best diagnosed by your doctor.
Discussing BSE with your doctor will help you understand the procedure better. Ask your doctor or other health professional to review with you the steps of BSE, as well as to explain what you are feeling in your breasts. This will assure you that you are doing your BSE correctly and thoroughly, and you will gain more confidence in examining your breasts.
Remember every part of the breast cancer detection plan:
- Regular Digital infrared thermogram screening
- Routine breast examination by a health professional.
- Monthly breast self-examination.
Breast self-examination should be done once a month so you become familiar with the usual appearance and feel of your breasts. Familiarity makes it easier to notice any changes in the breast from one month to another. Early discovery of a change from what is "normal" is the main idea behind BSE. The outlook is much better if you detect cancer in an early stage.
If you menstruate, the best time to do BSE is 2 or 3 days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen. If you no longer menstruate, pick a day such as the first day of the month, to remind yourself it is time to do BSE.
Here is one way to do BSE:
Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
Here's what you should look for:
- Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and colour
- Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling
If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor's attention:
- Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
- Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.
Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
Step 3: While you're at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.
Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you've reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4.
- A woman’s breast cancer risk increases with age. Women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk for breast cancer than those under 50.
- Breast cancer risk is higher for women who have a history of breast cancer in the family. Having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer nearly doubles a woman’s risk.
- Breast cancer occurs in men as well, so men should also conduct these self-screenings. However, breast cancer is 100 times more common in women.
- Now that you know how to do a breast self-exam, perform it regularly to ensure you are always in good health.