How do I perform a monthly breast self examination?
Breast Self Examination (BSE) should be done every month to help detect breast cancer.
When to do BSE:
If you still menstruate (have your period), the best time is two or three days after your period ends. These are the days when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen.
If you no longer menstruate, pick the same day of every month. It will be easy to remember.
If you take hormones, check with your doctor about the best time for your BSE.
How to do BSE:
Stand in front of a mirror that lets you see your breasts clearly. Look at both breasts. You are looking for anything unusual. This includes puckered, dimpled or scaly skin, or any discharge (clear or colored fluid) from nipples.
Now, look carefully to see if there is any change in the shape of your breasts. First, clasp your hands behind your head and press your hands forward.
Next, press your hands on your hips - firmly - and continue to look for changes in the shape of your breasts. Bend slightly toward the mirror as you hunch your shoulders and pull your elbows forward.
Choose your pattern:
Use one of the following three patterns to examine your breasts. The one you choose is not important. What is important is that you don't miss any areas.
Begin in the underarm area and move your fingers down until they are below the breast. Move your fingers in toward the center and go slowly back up. Cover the whole area, going up and down or begin at the outer edge of your breast, moving your fingers slowly around the entire breast. When you come back to where you started, make a smaller circle and do it again. Continue, working toward the nipple. Check your underarm and upper chest areas too.
or start at the outer edge of the breast and move your fingers toward the nipple and back. Do the whole breast, covering one wedge-shaped section at a time. Check your underarm and upper chest areas too.
With any pattern, be sure to check the area under your nipples too.
Begin examining your breasts for lumps and thickness, using one of the three different patterns.
Raise one arm, putting your hand behind your head. With the opposite hand, use the pads of your fingers (the flat part) to check the breast, the area between the breast and underarm, the underarm itself and the area above the breast, up to the collarbone and over to your shoulder. Check each area firmly, carefully and completely.
Some women prefer to do this in the shower. It's a good idea, because fingers glide easily over soapy skin, making it easier to feel for changes underneath.
Repeat step 4 lying down. Lie flat on your back, with your right hand behind your head and a pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. With your left hand, examine the right breast and area around it very carefully. Then switch hands and repeat the procedure for the left breast. You can use any of the patterns listed.
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