Breast self-examination (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s. A BSE involves checking your breasts for lumps or changes while standing and lying in different positions and while looking at your breasts in a mirror to note any changes in their appearance. Once you know what your breasts normally look and feels like, any new lump or change in appearance should be evaluated by a doctor.
- Lie down on your back and place your right arm behind your head.
- Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue.
- Use 3 different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs.
- Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone (sternum or breastbone). Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).
- There is some evidence to suggest that the up-and-down pattern (sometimes called the vertical pattern) is the most effective pattern for covering the entire breast without missing any breast tissue.
- Repeat the exam on your left breast
- While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, or dimpling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin.
- Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area.
Websites: www.cdc.gov; www.who.int; www.cancer.org; Photos courtesy of American Cancer Society Recommendations http://women.webmd.com/breast-self-examination