What is Breast Self-Examination (BSE)
Breast self-exam is simple. It includes looking at your breasts in the mirror and noticing any changes in color, or texture of the skin. Breast self-exam involves gently pressing on your breasts. Some women feel uncomfortable touching their own breasts. If you ask your neighbor if she checks out her breasts she will blush and probably giggle. Yet, this is a very simple and powerful tool. BSE is easily incorporated with a shower or in the evening before bedtime. It takes less than ten minutes and the more you do it the more you will “know” your breasts. This is very important because if in the future something does change you will notice it right away.
How do you do it?
Monthly breast self-exam should be performed every month on the same day of the month. The best time is the a week after your period. Your breasts will not be sore and easier to check. If you are not having a monthly period then pick a date you can easily remember and make that date the day for checking. You can do this in the shower or lying on your bed. It is important to do a complete check including the arm pits and area between your breasts.
Breast exam is not limited to just the breasts. The exam includes the nipples and areolas (the brown part around the nipple). It is important to notice any color changes in nipples and areolas, any discharge from the nipples, or any other irregularities. Look for a lump, hard knot, or skin that thickens or dimples. Nipples should be gently pinched to see any discharge including blood. Any discharge should be reported to your doctor. Go for regular breast exams and Pap tests. Ask about a mammogram.
Check your breasts using these steps:
1. Lying Down
Place a pillow under your right shoulder. Put your right hand under your head. Check your entire breast area with the finger pads of your left hand. Use small circles and follow an up-and-down pattern. Use light, medium, and firm pressure over each area of your breast. Gently squeeze the nipple for any discharge. Repeat these steps on your left breast.
2. Before a Mirror
With your hands at your sides, look at your breasts for changes in the size, shape and contour of each breast. Check for puckering, dimpling or changes in skin texture. By gently squeezing both nipples, look for discharge. Repeat the exam with your hands on your hips, then above your head.
3. In the Shower
Put your right hand under your head. The wetness of the shower will make it easier for you to feel lumps. Check your entire breast area with the finger pads of your left hand. Use small circles and follow an up-and-down pattern. Use light, medium, and firm pressure over each area of your breast. Gently squeeze the nipple for any discharge. Repeat these steps on your left breast.