A breast self-exam, or BSE, is one of three tests that doctors recommend to screen for breast cancer. By performing these exams on a regular basis, you will learn to recognize the changes in your breast that could signal the beginnings of breast cancer. The breast tumor's size and extent of spread are the two most important factors in determining a prognosis, or outlook. The earlier that breast cancer is discovered, the better your chances will be for treatment and cure.
Every woman, even if she is breastfeeding or has implants, should do a regular breast exam. The best time to perform a BSE is about a week after your period, when your breasts are less swollen and tender. If you are not having regular periods, then pick a day each month for a BSE and do it that same day every month. Routine examination will allow you to recognize what feels normal and what does not so that you will be able to detect any signs of cancer early.
In the shower. Press firmly with pads of three middle fingers using a circular motion, gently gliding over soapy skin. Do not lift fingers as you move around each breast in a circular pattern. Check entire breast and underarm pit. Use right hand to check left breast, and left hand for right breast. Feel for a lump, hard knot, thickening, or discharge from nipple.
Move around the breast in a set way. You can choose either the circle (A), the up and down line (B), or the wedge (C). Do it the same way every time. It will help you to make sure that you've gone over the entire breast area, and to remember how your breast feels each month. Do the same check lying down with towel under shoulder.
Look in a mirror. Check for changes in shape, size or in how the skin or nipples look. If you notice any changes, notify your doctor. A combination of mammography, clinical breast exam and BSE is recommended for best results in finding breast cancer early.