A Guide to Breast Self-Exams

by Portia Silva   |  Apr 18, 2010
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It's our responsibility to know how to conduct a breast self-exam. The best time to examine your breasts would be two or three days after your period, when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen. If you do not have regular periods, pick a day, such as the first day of each month, to remind yourself that you need to perform a BSE.

  1. Looking Into a Mirror
    Place your hands at the side. Look carefully for changes in the size, shape, and contour of each breast. Look for puckering, dimpling or changes in skin texture. Also, gently squeeze both nipples and look for discharge. Repeat the exam with your hands on your hips, then above your head.

  2. In the Shower
    Raise your left arm. Use your right hand to examine your left breast. With fingers flat, touch every part of the breast, gently feeling for lumps or a thickening. Press firmly, starting at the outermost top edge of your breast and spiraling in toward the nipple. Examine every part of the breast. Repeat the exam using your left hand to examine your right breast.

  3. Lying Down
    Place a pillow or towel under your left shoulder and put your left hand behind your head. With fingers flat, press firmly on your left breast with your right hand. Start at the outermost top edge of your breast and spiral in toward the nipple. Examine every part of the breast. Repeat the exam using your left hand to examine your right breast.

  4. Sitting Down
    With your arm resting on a firm surface in front of you, use the same circular motion to examine your armpits. This area is also breast tissue.

    If you notice anything unusual in your monthly exams, see your doctor. Keep in mind that breast lumps or other changes do not necessarily indicate breast cancer, especially in pre-menopausal women. However, your doctor will want to perform an exam and possibly order tests to determine whether you have breast cancer or not.

Fact Versus Fiction
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, but did you know even men get it? Surprised? Read on to separate fact from fiction, reality from myth.

All breast lumps are cancerous.

In general, 80% of lumps are caused by benign (non-cancerous) changes in the breast. This percentage tends to fluctuate with age. For young women, more than 80% of breast lumps are benign. As a woman ages, her risk of developing breast cancer increases.

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