How to Give Yourself a Breast Self Exam
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there are few things as central to breast health as self-examinations. However, many women don’t know how to do a full breast self exam (BSE), so I thought I’d take this opportunity to go through the steps with you.
Remember to perform breast self-exams once a month. Over 80% of most breast problems are found through self-examination.
If you menstruate, do it two or three days after the end of your period, when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen. If you are not menstruating, due to menopause, surgical menopause, amenorrhea, or another cause, choose a day such as the first of the month, and perform breast self-examination each month on that day.
1. Stand before the mirror. Inspect both breasts for anything unusual, such as discharge from the nipples, rash or puckering, dimpling, or scaling of the skin.
2. Watching closely in the mirror, raise both arms over your head, stretching them up high. Examine both breasts and the underarm area.
3. Next press hands firmly on the hips and bow slightly toward the mirror as you pull your shoulders and elbows forward.
4. Raise your left arm. Use three or four fingers of your right hand to explore your left breast firmly, carefully and thoroughly feeling for any unusual lump or mass under the skin. Beginning at the outer edge, press the flat part of your fingers in small circles, moving the circles slowly around the breast. Pay attention to the tail of the breast (the area between the breast and armpit) and the armpit. Repeat this for the right breast using your left hand.
5. Gently squeeze the nipple of your left breast and look for a discharge. Repeat this for your right breast. You should see your health care practitioner if you have any discharge during the month.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 lying flat on your back with your arm over your head and a pillow or folded towel under the shoulder of the breast that you are examining. This position flattens the breast tissue making it easier to examine. Use the same circular motion described above in step 4. Do this for left and right breast.
If you find anything suspicious, or have any questions, report it to your health care practitioner immediately.