Breast self examination (BSE) is an important step towards early detection of breast cancer. Such self-examination of breasts must be performed by every adult woman throughout her lifetime. This self breast examination must be supplemented with clinical examination by a physician after a woman reaches forty years of age. Early detection of breast lumps can go a long way in detecting cancer. This early detection can help in achieving a complete cure.
Although the current trend and even the American Cancer Society no longer recommends monthly Breast Self Examination (BSE) starting from the age of 20 years, based on the lack of conclusive evidence that BSE improves survival. But self examining breasts is an important step to find out if anything unusual has occurred. A breast self examination is best conducted after your monthly periods so as to rule out swollen and tender breasts. Such BSE combined with annual check ups by a doctor improves the chances of detecting breast cancer at an early stage. It is best to get yourself examined by a doctor once a year since there may be abnormalities that are difficult to feel and lumps or asymmetry that you may not notice.
Proper technique of BSE is important to have any tangible benefits. Younger women (up to the age of 40 or in other words premenopausal women) should do the the examination 7,8 days after the start of the menstrual
Breast self examination helps you gain better awareness of the condition of your breasts. Review your self breast examination technique with your doctor to ensure that you observe the feel and appearance of your breasts correctly. Note down your observations during the monthly BSE. It is best to conduct the breast self examination during the same day of the month each time. It has to be understood that breast self examination alone is not recommended as a screening tool for breast cancer. But it is important to become familiar with the way your breasts look and feel knowing the risks.
What to look for during Breast Self Examination
"Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important". Breast self examination is an option for women starting in their 20s. When you know what is normal, you can see or feel changes in your breast. You can report if you find any changes to your health care professional right away. It is true that one of the most frightening moments is when you see or feel something different or unusual while doing a BSE.
Let not the prospects of cancer keep you away from doing a BSE. There is no need to panic here, as 8 out of 10 cases are benign and this shows that all lumps are not cancerous. Cultivate the practice of BSE at about age 20. Continue to practice throughout your lives – this could be done even during pregnancy and menopause.
- Check to see that breasts are their usual shape, size and color
- Observe any visible distortion or swelling
- Check for any dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin
- Find out if there is any soreness, rash or swelling
- Check for inverted nipples
- Any discharge is also cause for concern
Self breast examination procedure
- Stand in front of a mirror with your shoulders straight and the hands in the side.
- Look for any changes when you raise your arms
- Now press the hands in the hips compressing the hips to contract the pectoralis muscles
- Look for palpable mass or asymmetry of breasts
- Check for dimpling of the skin around the breast
- Check for any milky or bloody discharge from the nipples.
- Lie down and use your left hand to feel your right breast and vice versa. Using a smooth yet firm touch, cover the entire area spanning your armpit to your cleavage as well as from the collarbone to the top of the abdomen.
- Many women discover small lumps readily when their skin is moist - for example; when they are showering
Women who are on oral contraceptives can conduct a breast self examination when embarking on a new pack of pills. Postmenopausal women can pick up a particular day of the month so that they can stick to it. Such a self breast examination needs to be made a part of every woman's life. This simple yet important procedure can go a long way in detecting the presence of the Big C.
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