Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to Perform a Breast Self Exam

Breast Self Exams (BSE) allow women to familiarize themselves with how their breasts normally look and feel. This helps women detect changes that may happen as early as possible. Typically, BSEs become an option for women in their 20s, but it is up to you and your health professional if you want to do them on a regular schedule. If you choose to perform BSEs, the ideal time is three to five days after your period begins.
Follow the Steps Below to Perform a Breast Self Exam:
1. Lie on your back and place your right hand behind your head. With the middle fingers of your left hand, press down firmly, yet gently, to examine your breast and feel for any lumps in the right breast. Repeat the process for the opposite side, switching hands. It is important that this portion of the exam be done lying down because it allows breast tissue to spread evenly, making it thin and allowing you to better feel all the tissue.
2. While sitting or standing, squeeze each nipple and check for discharge. Also examine your armpits, since breast tissue extends to this point. Note that when examining your armpits, your arms should only be raised slightly. If you raise your arm too much, the tissue in the area will tighten, and it’ll be harder to notice changes.
3. Stand with your arms at your side and look at your breasts in a mirror. Look again with your arms over your head. When looking at your breasts, note any changes in the appearance of your breasts. This includes contour, shape, size, redness or scaliness, or dimpling on the nipple or skin of the breast. Additionally, make sure nipples are not retracting, or turning inward.

If you find any changes in the appearance or feel of your breasts, see your doctor. Changes don’t always mean cancer, but it’s best to consult with your physician when you notice them since cancer found at an early stage typically has a better chance of successful treatment.

Keep in mind that the American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 40 and older have a mammogram and clinical breast exam every year. Those at higher risk (family history of breast cancer or genetic tendency) may be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. Between ages 20 and 39, a clinical breast examination should be performed by a health professional every three years. Talk with your doctor to learn more about exams and screenings that are appropriate for you.

For information on the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center at GBMC, call 443-849-GBMC (4262) or visit

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