self-examination (BSE) involves checking your breasts to help detect breast
problems or changes. Many breast problems are first discovered by women
themselves, often by accident. Breast lumps can be noncancerous (benign) or
Breast cancer can occur at any age, though it is most
common in women older than 50.
Many experts believe that the harms of breast self-examination outweigh the benefits. Others consider BSE an option for women. Talk with your doctor about breast
A breast self-examination involves checking your breasts for
lumps or changes while standing and lying in different positions and while
looking at your breasts in a mirror to note any changes in their appearance.
Once you know what your breasts normally look and feel like, any new lump or
change in appearance should be evaluated by a doctor. Most breast
problems or changes are not because of cancer.
If you choose to do
breast self-examinations, this should not replace regular
clinical breast examinations (CBE) by a doctor and
implants do not decrease a woman's risk for breast cancer, so women with breast
implants need to talk with their doctors about performing breast
Why It Is Done
A breast self-examination is done to
detect breast problems, such as a lump or change in appearance, that may
indicate breast cancer or other breast conditions that may require medical
attention (such as
mastitis or a
How To Prepare
No special preparation is needed before
having this test.
How It Is Done
It takes practice to perform a thorough
breast self-examination. Ask your doctor for tips that can help
you perform a breast self-examination correctly.
The best time to
examine your breasts is usually one week after your menstrual period begins,
when your breast tissue is least likely to be swollen or tender. If your
menstrual cycle is irregular, or if you have stopped
menstruating due to
menopause or the removal of your uterus (hysterectomy), do your examination on a day of the
month that's easy to remember. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding can
continue to examine their breasts every month. Breast-feeding mothers can
examine their breasts after a feeding or after using a breast pump so that the
breasts have as little milk as possible, making the examination easier and more
To do a breast self-examination, remove all your
clothes above the waist and lie down. The examination is done while lying down
so your breast tissue spreads evenly over your chest wall and is as thin as
possible, making it much easier to feel all your breast tissue.
Use the pads of the three middle fingers of your left hand-not your
fingertips-to check your right breast. Move your fingers slowly in small