Breast self-examination, performed at the same time each month, takes little time, costs nothing and can be life-saving. Follow these simple steps. Contact your health care professional if you discover any lumps or changes. Remember, breast self-exams are not a substitute for regular clinical breast exams by a health care professional or for screening mammograms. For more details on what is recommended and how to find free or low-cost mammograms, click here.
Palpation. With the opposite hand, use the sensitive pads of the three middle fingers—not the tips. Begin in the armpit. Use small circular motions (the size of a dime), and varying degrees of pressure, to examine the entire breast area.
BSE Grid. Visualize the breast area divided into a pattern-top to bottom from the collarbone to below the breast, and side-to-side, from the breastbone to armpit. Examine the area in vertical strips, covering the breast area in sections using fingers in an up-and-down movement.
1. Look in the Mirror
Standing in front of a mirror, examine breasts with hands down at sides, then clasped overhead. Look for changes in size or shape or changes in nipples. Squeeze both nipples between thumb and forefinger to check for discharge. Then press hands on hips and push elbows forward to tighten chest muscles. Look for changes in shape and size, swelling, dimpling, puckering or change in texture or skin coloring or changes, such as redness or scaliness.
2. In the Shower
BSE is easier when skin is wet and soapy. In the shower, raise the right arm above head and begin at the center of the armpit, moving fingers in small circular motions, applying light, medium and deep pressure to examine the entire depth of breast tissue. Use the BSE Grid to cover the entire breast area. Repeat for left side.
3. Lying Down
Lying down helps to flatten the breast, making it easier to examine the breast tissue by pressing firmly against the chest wall. Place a pillow under right shoulder. Begin at the armpit and make a series of three small circles. Use light, medium and deep pressure. After each series of circles, move one finger's width along the breast (BSE Grid) and begin again. Cover the entire breast area. Repeat for left side.
For more information on risk factors, diagnosis and treatment options for breast cancer, visit the HealthyWomen Health Center at http://www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/breast.
© 2013. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. All rights reserved. All content provided in this guide is for information purposes only. Any information herein relating to specific medical conditions, preventive care and/or healthy lifestyles does not suggest individual diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for medical attention.Back to Breast Cancer Awareness Guide Home Page
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