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A breast self-exam or (BSE) is something that can be done at home to look for changes in breast tissue such as lumps or dimpling that may indicate signs of breast cancer. BSE is vital in detecting breast cancer early which greatly improves one’s chances of survival. While highly effective, not all forms of breast cancer can be detected through BSE, but it is a critical step in insuring breast health. According to Breastcancer.org, the majority of breast lumps (80 percent) are not cancerous, but it is important to get in the habit of doing a self examination once a month. If a lump is found, don’t panic, and contact your doctor. The best time to examine yourself is several days after your period has ended, when your breast are less likely to be swollen and tender.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation suggests these simple steps for an effective breast self-examination:

Visual and standing examination

A visual examination can be done in front of a mirror. Here is what you should look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color

  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

  • Raise your arms and look for the same changes.

  • While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).


If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin

  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)

  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling


Laying down examination

  • Starting at the armpit, feel for lumps by making circles with the pads of the fingers.

  • After making 3 circles at varying pressures, slide downward a finger’s width and begin a new set of circles.

  • Repeat until reaching the top of the abdomen. At this point, the examination path should be shifted a finger’s width horizontally, and should then progress upwards towards collarbone.

  • This up-and-down pattern should be followed all the way to the space between the breasts. It can then be performed on the opposite side of the body

For more information on how to do breast self-exam visit:  BreastCancer.org

Image sources: Medical News Today

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