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Breast Self Exam

How to Perform a Thorough Breast Exam

Performing routine breast self-examination is an important adjunct to annual screening mammography. BSE should be performed on a monthly basis by all women over 20 years of age. In women who are menstruating, the most appropriate time to perform BSE is immediately following the cessation of your menstrual cycle. For women who are post-menopausal or have had a hysterectomy, BSE should be performed on the same day of each month, for example, the fifteenth of each month.

1. In the shower or tub:

  • Put one hand behind your head.
  • With your fingers flat (do not use the fingertips), move your hand over the entire breast area.
  • Use the right hand for the left breast, and vice versa.
  • Examine the entire breast. You may work inward/outward in circles from the nipple region to the outer edge of the breasts, or examine each section of the breast in pie-shaped wedges.
  • Check for lumps, knots or thickenings.

2. Before a mirror:

  • With your hands at your sides, check for visible lumps or dimpling.
  • Raise your arms above your head. Look for changes in the shape or size of your breasts as well as changes in the skin texture.

3. Lying down:

  • Place a pillow or towel under your right shoulder and your right hand behind your head.
  • Follow the same technique as in the shower. Remember to use the right hand for the left breast; left hand for right. Check for lumps, knots or thickenings.
  • Examine every part of the breast area including the underarm. Repeat on the left.
  • Lastly, gently squeeze the nipple of each breast, checking for any crust or discharge.

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