Breast self-exams save lives
Starting at age 20, breast self-examination (BSE) should be done once a month so you become familiar with the usual appearance and feel of your breasts. Familiarity makes it easier to notice any changes in the breast from one month to another. Early discovery of a change from what is “normal” is the main idea behind BSE.
If you menstruate, the best time to do BSE is two or three days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen. If you no longer menstruate, pick a day, such as the first of each month, to remind yourself it is time to do BSE.
Stand before a mirror.
Inspect both breasts for anything unusual such as discharge from the nipples, puckering, dimpling or scaling of the skin.
The next two steps will emphasize any change in the shape or contour of your breasts. As you do them you should be able to feel your chest muscles tighten.
Watching closely in the mirror, clasp hands behind your head and press hands forward.
Next, press hands firmly on hips and bow slightly toward your mirror as you pull your shoulders and elbows forward.
To examine your left breast, lie flat on your back, left arm over your head with a pillow or folded towel under your left shoulder. This position flattens the breast and makes it easier to examine. Use three or four fingers side by side to make small circles, moving the circles slowly across your breast. Gradually work from top to bottom, overlapping each row to cover the entire breast. Pay special attention to the area between the breast and the armpit, including the armpit itself. Feel for any unusual lump or mass under the skin. Reposition to check your right breast.
You may examine yourself while showering. Either way, be consistent in your examination method and pattern.
If you notice any change – a lump, discharge, dimpling or anything unusual – call your Gundersen primary care provider for advice and direction.