Breast Self Exam


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Breast Self Exam
Fibrycystic Changes
Breast Cancer

Breast Self Exam (BSE)....


Christine Tripp's House of Concern (HOC) sponsored an early detection breast cancer education project for low income women and men. The project had several components. First, the placement of shower plaques in as many homes as funds would allow. Second, providing transportation to and from sites offering free mammograms. Third, by providing a support system when treatment was necessary.

HOC conducted workshops and seminars on the importance of self-breast examination and demonstrated how to exam the breast. Participants were trained to provide workshops and seminars in their places of worship, job sites, and homes. 

Most importantly, HOC recruited and trained buddies to be support systems for persons going through treatment. Buddies were available until the person made a complete recovery.

Learn To Perform a Breast Self-Exam

Become bosom buddies with your breasts

Knowing your breasts can save your life. If you are a woman aged 20 or older, a monthly breast self-exam is imperative to your health. It will help you know exactly how your breasts normally look and feel. It will also make it easier for you to discover any abnormalities and report them to your doctor.

If you think you don't have time or aren't at risk, think again:

  • Breast cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related deaths in women.
  • One out of every eight women living in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
  • 90 to 95 percent of breast cancer that is detected early can be cured.
  • Most breast lumps are found by women doing breast self-exams.
  • You owe it to yourself to take the time to do it right.

If you perform your breast self-exam on the same day each month, it will become an easy routine to remember. If you menstruate, the best time to do an exam is two to three days after your period ends. This is when your breasts are at their least tender. If you no longer menstruate, you should pick the same day each month (the date that matches your birthday is an easy-to-remember choice). If you take hormones, check with your doctor about the best time to do it. No matter what date you pick, you should also have your doctor check your breasts each year.

Another important factor is to find the right place. Many women prefer a warm, private room where they feel comfortable, such as the bathroom or bedroom. The room should have a well-lit mirror and plenty of space to lie down.

The most common signs of breast cancer include:

  • A painless lump in the breast or under the arm
  • Abnormal thickening of the breast tissue
  • A change in breast density

Less common signs include:

  • Redness, puckering, scaling or dimpling of the skin over the breast
  • Nipple discharge or inversion

Stand in front of a mirror in a well-lit area so you can see your breasts clearly. Look at each breast for anything unusual such as:

  • Nipple discharge or inversion
  • Skin that is red, puckered, dimpled, or scaly

Next, check for changes in your breasts' shape. To do this, clasp your hands behind your head and press them forward. Pay attention to how this effects each breast. Then put your hands firmly on your hips, and bend slightly forward. As you bend, hunch your shoulders and pull your elbows forward. This will give you a good idea of your breasts' natural contours, and will make it easy for you to detect any changes.

Choose your pattern

You can choose from three different patterns to examine your breasts--each works equally well. Just pick the one that makes you feel the most comfortable and is easiest for you to examine all the necessary areas, which include both breasts, your underarms, and your upper chest (up to your collarbone). You can combine patterns if doing so makes it easier to check everything. The explanations below describe how to cover the breasts with each pattern.

Circles: Begin at the very outer edge of the breast, moving your fingers slowly around the entire breast until you complete a circle. Then move inward a little and make a smaller circle. Continue making smaller and smaller circles, working toward the nipple until you've covered the entire breast.

Starting at the bottom edge of one side of your breast, move your fingers slowly upward until you hit the uppermost edge of the same side. Then move your fingers slightly over toward the center of the breast. Slowly move them downward until you are at the base of your breast once again. Cover the whole breast using this up and down pattern.

Wedges: Start at the outer edge of the breast and move your fingers slowly toward the nipple and then back to the edge again. Check the whole breast, covering one wedge-shaped section at a time.

Check for lumps and thickness

Using your chosen pattern, you can examine your breasts for lumps and thickness. If you prefer, you can do this part in the shower, since water makes it easier for your hands to glide over your skin. You can also use powder, lotion, body oil, or nothing at all.

  • Raise one arm and put your hand behind your head.
  • With the opposite hand, use the pads of three fingers (where your fingerprints are, not the tips) to check the breast. You will feel a ridge of tissue in the lower curve of your breast. Also check the area between the breast and underarm, the underarm itself, and the area above the breast (all the way up to your collarbone and shoulder) to cover the breast tissue that extends toward the shoulder.
  • Carefully check each area completely. Use enough pressure to feel different breast tissues, including the skin, the tissue just beneath it, and the deeper tissue (as close to your ribs as you can get without discomfort).
  • Raise the other arm, put it behind your head, and then check the opposite side.
  • Once you've checked both breasts (and are out of the shower and dry), gently squeeze each of your nipples between your thumb and index finger. If you notice any clear or bloody discharge, you should report it to your doctor immediately after your self-exam.

Lie down and repeat Step 3

Find a comfortable spot where you can lie flat on your back, such as a soft carpet or mat, or even your bed if it's firm. Lying on your back will cause your breasts to flatten out against your chest. Sometimes it's easier to feel lumps in this position.

Place one hand behind your head and a pillow or folded towel under your shoulder on the same side. Use the opposite hand to begin the exam. When you're done with the first side, switch to the other hand (and move the pillow or towel, too) to do the other side.

When you've completed the exam, be happy knowing that you're well on your way toward staying healthy.


A woman's risk for breast cancer increases with age. Mammograms can reveal breast cancer up to two years before it can be felt. If you are age 40 to 49, you should get a mammogram every one to two years. If you are age 50 or above, you should get a mammogram once per year.

A small percentage of men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. All men should be aware of the risk factors (family history, growing older, Klinefelter's syndrome, Gynecomastia, testicular dysfunction) and report any changes in their breasts to their physician.

Most breast lumps are completely normal and harmless. However, it's important to report any lumps you find to your doctor.

This information is brought to you by the House Of Concern Breast Cancer Education Project


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