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Video: Breast Self-Exam Animation Medical AnimationLearn how a breast self-exam (BSE) is performed and what to look for when examining your breasts. When performed regularly, BSEs may be able to help you recognize changes in your breasts that can be symptoms of breast cancer.
Learn how a breast self-exam (BSE) is performed and what to look for when examining your breasts. When performed regularly, BSEs may be able to help you recognize changes in your breasts that can be symptoms of breast cancer.
While diagnostic tests such as mammograms detect breast cancer, breast self-exams (BSEs) help women stay attuned to changes in their breasts.
When performed regularly, BSEs can help you know how your breasts normally look and feel. More so, BSEs can help you recognize changes in your breasts that may be warning signs of breast cancer. If you notice such irregularities, make an appointment to see your doctor.
How a BSE Is Performed
Each month, right after your menstrual cycle has ended, you should perform a BSE. The first step requires a visual inspection. Start by standing in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips. Look at your breasts, paying special attention to any skin changes such as redness, swelling and puckering. Also look for any nipple changes such as indentation, scaling and discharge. Be sure to raise your hands over your head too and check for any change in the appearance or contour of your breasts.
The second part of the BSE involves feeling your breasts for changes. There are three different ways you can perform the exam, any of which may be the appropriate approach for you.
First, lay down on your back and place your right arm behind your head. Then perform the exam using one of the following methods:
- Line method – Use the soft pads of your three middle fingers on your left hand to palpate your right breast, feeling for changes. Move your hand in a vertical line, starting in the underarm area and moving down below the breast. Go over each area of your breast, moving over a little each time. Use an up and down motion until the entire breast and underarm area has been examined. Then, move your left arm behind your head and use your right hand to perform the exam on your left breast.
- Circle method – Move your three middle fingers in a circular motion to palpate your right breast and feel for changes. Start at the outer edge of your breast and work your way in slowly, toward your nipple. Check your underarm area and upper chest as well. Then, move your left arm behind your head and repeat the exam using your right hand to check your left breast.
- Wedge method – Beginning at the outer edge of your right breast, use your three middle fingers to palpate your breast, moving in toward your nipple. Essentially, feel each area of your breast, one portion or “wedge” at a time. Be sure to also check your underarm and upper chest areas. After examining your right breast, move your left arm behind your head and use your right hand to examine your left breast.
What to Look for During a BSE
If you should notice any of the following signs while examining your breasts, please see your doctor. He or she will perform a clinical exam and may recommend diagnostic tests to determine if you have breast cancer.
- An increase in size or a change in the shape of your breast
- A lump, knot or thickening inside your breast or underarm
- Swelling or warmth of your breast
- Darkening, redness, dimpling or pitting of your breast skin
- A rash or itchy, scaly sore on your nipple
- Your nipple starts to face inward
- Nipple discharge that starts suddenly
- Continuous pain in an area of your breast
NOTE: These symptoms may be attributed to conditions other than cancer. It is important to consult with a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis.
To learn more about the role BSEs can play in your breast cancer screening plan, talk to your doctor. He or she can provide detailed information and recommend a step-by-step approach for performing a BSE.