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Tips on breast self-examination

Peace Ahuchama

 

With the prevalence of breast cancer, Breast Self-Examination (BSE) has become imperative. This is a technique that 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.

For a woman, it is important to do BSE at the end of every monthly period. However, if you are pregnant, experiencing menopause  or your period is irregular, choose a specific day each month for BSE. This should not be performed in the shower or with lotion on your skin or fingers.

If you find a lump or notice other unusual changes, do not panic. About 80 per cent of lumps found are not cancerous. See your doctor promptly for further evaluation.

 

How to do BSE

Stand in front of a mirror and look closely at your breasts in the following three positions: viewing from the right and left as well as facing forward.

• Inspect your breast with your arms at your side.

• Raise your arms high over head, look for any changes in the contour of the skin or changes in the nipples, finger flat; move gently over every part of each breast.

• Use your right hand to examine the left breast, left hand for the right breast.

• Check for any lump, hard knot, or thickened spot; carefully observe any changes in your breast.

 You can also do BSE lying down.

•Check the outer half of your right breast. Lie down and roll on to your left side to examine your right breast. Place your right hand, palm up on your forehead. Your breast should lie as flat on your chest as possible. 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, about the size of a dime. 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 on to the next area.

• Start the circles in your armpit and move down to just below the bra line. Then slide your fingers over just the width of one finger 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. Then you reach the nipple, remove pillow and roll on to your back; remove your hand from your forehead and place this arm at a right angle. 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 non-palpating hand down at your side, make a row of circles above and below your collarbone, working from your shoulder to your mid-line

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