Performing a breast self-exam (BSE) is a simple process. It requires only a few minutes of your time to do a complete exam. Getting in the habit of examining your breasts once a month can help you become familiar with the way your breasts normally feel and look, which in turn can help you recognize anything unusual in the future.
When should you do BSE?
While it is recommended to get your first mammogram at the age of 40, women should begin performing monthly BSEs around the age of 20 and continue throughout their lives. The best time to perform the monthly self-exam is when the breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen, typically a few days after your period ends. If you no longer menstruate, it is a good idea to pick a certain day—for example, the first of every month—to remember to do your breast self-exam.
Why do a BSE?
While mammograms can help detect breast cancer before you feel a lump, performing breast self-exams can help you become familiar with how your breasts feel and look, so you can be more knowledgeable about your breast health and alert your physician with any concerns or changes. Breast self-exams may aid in early detection of breast cancer and are especially important for women with a family history of breast cancer or for those who possess several risk factors. BSE, along with regular mammograms and annual physical examinations by your healthcare provider make it possible to detect breast cancer early. The earlier that breast cancer is detected the better the outcome.
How is it done?
Physicians suggest several tips and procedures to guide a successful self-breast exam. Ask your physician to review your technique during your annual health exam. Tell your physician right away if you find any of the following changes; development of a lump, thickening, discharge other than breast milk, swelling of the breast, skin irritation or dimpling, and nipple abnormalities such as pain, redness, turning inward, etc.
Fort Memorial Hospital is a Pink Ribbon facility, recognized as providing excellence in breast health paired with exceptional commitment and support to the women of our community. Visit Fort HealthCare’s Center for Women’s Health website for more information regarding breast health.