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Breast Self Examination To Detect Breast Cancer Early

Breast cancer is a significant health concern, but early detection can make a world of difference. That’s where Breast Self-Examination (BSE) comes in. It’s a straightforward, do-it-yourself method to stay on top of your breast health. Let’s break down how you can perform a BSE, step by step.

What is a Breast Self-Examination?

Simply put, a breast self-exam is a way for you to check your breasts for any changes or unusual signs. While mammograms are the gold standard for detecting breast abnormalities, getting to know how your breasts normally look and feel is key. This familiarity can help you spot when something’s off.

How to Do a Breast Self-Examination?

BSE involves two main stages: inspection and feeling your breasts.

It’s recommended for every woman starting at age 25. If you’re menstruating, perform the exam after your period ends, as your breasts are less likely to be tender or swollen.

If you’re postmenopausal or have irregular periods, just pick a consistent day each month, like the first or last day, or even a date that’s easy for you to remember. Keep track of your findings in a journal or on your smartphone.

Detailed Guide to Breast Self-Examination

Breast Self-Examination (BSE) is a simple but crucial routine that every woman should be familiar with. It’s not just about doing the exam; it’s about knowing your body and catching any changes early.

Here’s a more detailed walk-through of the steps and what to look out for.

Steps of Breast Examination

1. Stand in Front of a Mirror:

Start by finding a comfortable, private space with a mirror. Take off your shirt and bra, and stand straight with your hands on your hips. This is your starting position for a good visual examination of your breasts. It’s important to do this regularly because you’re the expert on your body and the best person to notice any changes.

Breast Self-Exam

2. Inspect Your Breasts:

Now, take a good look at your breasts. You’re checking for any visible changes, but remember, slight differences between the two breasts are normal. Here’s what you should be focusing on:

  • Size and Shape: Look for any noticeable change in size or shape. Sometimes, an infection or a lump can cause a part of your breast to swell, making one breast appear larger than the other.

  • Skin Appearance: Pay attention to the skin on your breasts. Look out for any rashes, redness, dimpling (like an orange peel), or puckering. These could be signs of inflammation or other breast conditions.

  • Nipple Area: Examine your nipples and the surrounding area (areola). Look for any changes in size or shape, or if they’ve become inverted (turned inward) when they normally protrude.

  • Discoloration or Texture Changes: Any discoloration or changes in the texture of the skin on your breasts should be noted. This includes any thickening of the skin or the appearance of veins that are more prominent than usual.

  • Visible Lumps: While some lumps can be normal (especially if they come and go with your menstrual cycle), keep an eye out for any new lump or mass in the breast.
  1. Change Positions:

Now, raise your arms overhead and look for the same changes. This position stretches the skin and tissue, making some changes more noticeable.

  1. Check From Different Angles:

Lean forward and turn from side to side. This allows you to see your breasts from different angles and can help you spot any changes you might have missed.

Changes to Keep in Mind

  • Changes in Breast Size or Shape: Sometimes, these changes can be subtle. They might not be immediately noticeable, so it’s important to know how your breasts usually look and feel.

  • Differences in the Nipple Area: This includes any newly inverted nipples or changes in the color or texture of the nipple or areola.

  • Any Skin Changes: Look for rashes, red patches, or wounds that don’t heal. Also, be alert for any areas of skin that feel different from the rest, like thicker or with a different texture.

  • Presence of Any Lumps: If you do feel a lump, don’t panic. Many lumps are benign (non-cancerous). However, it’s important to keep track of any new lumps and talk to your doctor if you’re concerned.

Why This Matters?

Regular BSE is a proactive way to know your body and detect any early signs of potential issues. While not all changes mean cancer, early detection can be crucial in dealing with breast health issues effectively.

Remember, you’re not just checking your breasts; you’re learning what’s normal for you. That way, you can be more confident in identifying anything unusual.

How to Feel the Breast During Self-Exam?

After the visual inspection, the next step in your Breast Self-Examination is to feel your breasts. This part is about getting a sense of the texture and consistency of your breast tissue, and noting anything unusual. Here’s a bit more detail on how to do it right.

  • Use the Flat Surface of Your Middle Three Fingers:

The best tools for this job are your own hands. Specifically, the flat parts of your middle three fingers. Why these fingers? They’re usually the most sensitive to touch, allowing you to feel more accurately for any lumps or changes.

  • Examine Each Breast With the Opposite Hand:

Use your left hand to examine your right breast, and your right hand for your left breast. This cross-examination technique allows for better reach and control, ensuring you don’t miss any area.

  • Cover the Entire Breast in a Circular Motion:

Start at the nipple and move outward in larger circles until you’ve covered the entire breast. Imagine your breast as a clock face and move your fingers along each ‘hour’ to ensure you cover every part. Use light, medium, and firm pressure to feel all the layers of breast tissue, from the surface close to the skin to the tissue deeper inside.

  • Don’t Forget to Check Under Your Arms:

The area under your arms (the axilla) is important too. Many don’t realize that breast tissue extends into the underarm area. Use the same circular motions to check for any lumps or swelling in these lymph node-rich areas.

  • Be Aware of Any Lumps or Abnormal Textures:

While feeling your breasts, note any lumps, thickening, hardened knots, or any other breast changes. Don’t panic if you feel something unusual; many women have some lumpy areas or fibrous tissue. However, it’s important to keep an eye on these changes, especially if they don’t fluctuate with your menstrual cycle.

When to Worry About Breast Lumps?

  • Gently Squeeze Each Nipple:

Finally, gently squeeze the nipple of each breast. You’re checking for any discharge, which can be a clear, milky, or yellow fluid or blood. While some discharge can be normal, especially if you squeeze your nipples, it’s something to mention to your doctor if it happens without squeezing or if you notice blood.

What to Keep in Mind During Breast Self Examination?

It’s important to remember that a self-exam doesn’t replace professional check-ups. It’s a complementary practice that empowers you to know your body better. If you do find something unusual, don’t panic. Many breast changes are normal or due to benign conditions. However, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor for a professional evaluation.

Wrapping Up

Breast Self-Examination is a powerful tool in your health toolkit. It’s all about being proactive and familiar with your body. The more you know about your normal breast appearance and feel, the quicker you’ll notice any changes.

This simple practice, done regularly, can be a lifesaver. Remember, early detection is key in the fight against breast cancer. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and don’t hesitate to reach out to our healthcare professionals with any concerns. Your health is worth it!

About Author

Dr. Shama Shaikh

Dr. Shama Shaikh-Surve

General and Laparoscopic Surgeon
Contact: +91 88888 22222
Email – [email protected]

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