Breast self-exam, or regularly examination of your breasts on your own, can be an important way to detect a breast cancer early, when it's more likely to be treated successfully.
Not every breast cancer can be found this way, but it is a critical step you can and should take for yourself. By doing BSEs regularly, you get to know how your breasts normally feel and look so that you are able to detect any changes more easily.
WHAT IS SELF BREAST EXAMINATION?
A self breast -examination (SBE) is a technique which allows an individual to examine his/her breast tissue for any physical or visual changes. It is often used as an early detection method for breast cancer.
WHEN TO PERFORM SELF BREAST EXAMINATION
Women can begin practicing SBE at about age 20 and continue the practice throughout their lives—even during pregnancy and after menopause.
Breast self-examination can be performed every month. Become familiar with how your breasts usually look and feel so that you may notice any change from what is normal for you:
If you still menstruate, the best time to do SBE is when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen, such as a few days after your period ends.
If you no longer menstruate, pick a certain day—such as the first day of each month—to remind yourself to do SBE.
If you are taking hormones therapy, talk with your health care provider about when to do SBE.
PROCEDURE OF SELF BREAST EXAMINATION
Self breast examination is performed using two major techniques as follows:
READ ALSO: Breast Cancer - What You Need To Know
Part 1: LOOK
Stand in front of a mirror and look closely at your breasts in the from the right and left as well as facing forward.
Check for the following changes:
Shape: Compare one to the other. One breast may normally be bigger than the other, but sudden changes in size should not occur.
Skin: Check for rash, redness, puckering, dimpling, or orange-peel-textured appearance.
Nipples: Check for any physical changes such as a sudden inversion, scaliness, redness, itching, swelling, or discharge.
Vein patterns: Look for a noticeable increase in size or number of veins compared to the other breast.
Arm by the side and look forward
Arm above the head and bend forward
Put your hands on your hips and hunch forward. (Maurer foundation, 2018).
Part 2: TOUCH
Right breast: Lie down on your back, examine your right breast using your left hand. Place your right hand, palm up on your forehead Your breast should lie as flat as possible on your chest. It may be easier and more comfortable if you put a pillow behind your shoulder or back.
Using the flat pads of your three middle fingers not the tips move the pads of your fingers in little circles, For each little circle, change the amount of pressure so you can feel all levels of your breast tissue. Make each circle three times *once light*, *once medium*, and *once deep* before you move o to the next area.
Start the circles in your armpit and move down to just below the bra line. Then slide your fingers over and move up again. Don’t lift your fingers from your breast as you move them to make sure you feel the entire area.
Continue this up-and-down vertical strip pattern from your collarbone to just below your bra line until you reach the nipple.
Check the INNER HALF of your right breast. When you reach the nipple, remove pillow from your back, remove your hand from your forehead and place this arm at a right angle (see drawing).
Carefully check the nipple area using the same circular pressures as before, without squeezing.
Then examine the remaining breast tissue using the up-and-down vertical strip pattern, until you reach the middle of your chest.
Place your second hand down at your side then make a row of circles above and below your collarbone. (Maurer foundation, 2018).
Now turn to your right side and repeat these steps on your left breast, using your right hand.
Repeat this exam every month even if you’re pregnant to become more familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel.
If you find a lump or notice other unusual changes: Don’t panic. About 80% of lumps found are not cancerous. See your health care provider immediately for further evaluation.
Written By: Abubakar Bukola, RN
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