Performing Breast Self-Examination can
save your life. Knowing how to examine your breasts is an
important defense against breast cancer. Detecting breast
cancer early, when the disease is in a more curable stage
allows for more options in treatment and increases the
chances for success and cure. The smaller the lump, the
better your chances of being treated successfully. Nine
out of ten women who receive early treatment for breast
cancer are considered disease-free five years later.
Women twenty years of age or older
should examine their breasts at least once a month, every
month. The last day of your menstrual period is the best
time for BSE, because by then any premenstrual changes
will have subsided. If you are no longer menstruating,
check your breasts on the first day of each month.
By practicing BSE you will become
familiar with how your breasts normally feel, and you
will be more aware when a change does occur in your
breasts. The purpose of BSE is to discover any change in
The most effective method to exam your
breasts is a three-step procedure: (1) Mirror Inspection,
(2) Soaping the Breasts and (3) Palpation
INSPECTION: VISUAL INSPECTION
Inspect your breasts with your arms
at your sides. Check for anything unusual, such as
any discharge from the nipples, puckering, dimpling,
or scaling of the skin.
Next, raise your arms high
overhead. Look for any changes in the contour of each
breast. Look first at the front and then turn to each
Finally, place yur hands on your
hips and press down firmly to flex your chest
muscles, and again check the front and side views.
Your left and right breast will not exactly match-few
womens breasts do. Only be concerned if there
has been an unusual increase in the size or change in
position of one breast.
Regular inspection of your breasts
will show what is normal for you and will give you
confidence in your examination
2. SOAPING THE
During your bath or shower examine
your breasts. Wet, soapy skin makes this step easier.
Raise you left arm over your head, with your fingers
held flat, feel the left breast with your right hand.
Beginning at the outer edge, press the flat part of
your fingers in small circles, moving the circles
slowly around the breast. Gradually work toward the
nipple. Be sure to check the complete breast. Examine
very carefully the area between the breast and the
armpit, including the armpit itself.
The grid method of BSE is
considered the most thorough and reliable approach of
examination. In order to perform this method of BSE
you need to know how to "palpate"or feel
for lumps in your breast.
The correct method to palpate your
breasts is as follows:
- Use the flat portions of your
three middle fingers-the whole area from the tip
to the first joint.
- Your fingers should be kept flat
or even a bit bowed so that they are parallel to
the base of the breast.
- Always press straight down toward
your rib cage. You may push away a lump if you
claw or press your breast sideways.
- While your fingers are kept in one
place, move the flats of your fingers in three
small circles about the size of a dime.
- Use very LIGHT pressure for the
first circle-almost no pressure-to feel for lumps
at the surface. The second circle should be made
straight down in the same spot, using MEDIUM
pressure to go midway into the breast. The third
circle is made by using FIRM pressure and
pressing as far and as firmly as you can without
hurting, to find lumps deep in the breast tissue,
near the ribs.
In order to perform this grid
method of BSE, set aside a specific time for yourself
to learn and practice this technique.
- Use your right hand to examine
your left breast and your left hand to examine
your right breast.
- The area to be examined extends
from your collarbone down to your bra line, and
to your armpit on the side.
- Lie flat on your back, then turn
over on your side with your legs bent. Now turn
just your shoulders back and put the back of your
hand across your forehead, so that there is no
bulge on the outside of your breast and your
nipple seems to float on top of your breast. A
small pillow beneath your lower back may make you
- Begin by examining the outer half
of your breast. Starting underneath your armpit,
work straight down and then back up in parallel
vertical strips, as if you were mowing a lawn.
- Using your three fingers, make
three small circles in one spot, as described
previously, then move your fingers down one
finger-width away and palpate the next spot.
Continue down in a straight vertical line until
you reach your bra line, next move your fingers
one finger-width sideways and work upward. By
slightly overlapping each spot and each strip,
you will be sure not to miss anything.
- When you reach the nipple, hold
your fingers in place and roll back flat on your
back, placing your arm to the side straight out.
Continue to work in vertical strips from and
including the nipple over to the center of your
chest. You will probably be able to fit four to
six vertical rows on the outer half of the
breast, and three to four rows on the inner half,
depending on the size of your breasts. Once you
have finished doing the vertical strips, do one
or two horizontal strips under your collarbone.
- Turn on your other side and
examine your other breast the same way, working
from the outside into the center.
- Finally, sqeeze the nipple of each
breast gently between thumb and index finger. Any
discharge, clear or bloody, should be reported to
your doctor immediately.
establishing BSE as a regular habit, you will become more
skilled and more familiar with the normal feel of your
breasts. Learn BSE today! It is one of the best things
you can do for yourself.
if a lump or change is discovered during BSE, it is
important to see your doctor as soon as possible. Do not
be frightened. Most breast lumps or changes are benign
(not cancerous), but only your doctor can make that