Breast Self Examination

Breast Surgery
Breast Examination
Early detection and a high index of suspicion are important in combating the menace of breast cancer. Breast self-exam (BSE) is a method of finding abnormalities of the breast, for early detection of breast cancer. The method involves the woman herself looking at and feeling each breast for possible lumps, distortions or swelling.

Most methods suggest that the woman stand in front of a mirror with the torso exposed to view. She looks in the mirror for visual signs of dimpling, swelling, or redness on or near the breasts. This is usually repeated in several positions, such as while having hands on the hips, and then again with arms held overhead.

The woman then palpates her breasts with the pads of her fingers to feel for lumps (either superficial or deeper in tissue) or soreness. There are several common patterns, which are designed to ensure complete coverage. The vertical strip pattern involves moving the fingers up and down over the breast.

The pie-wedge pattern starts at the nipple and moves outward. The circular pattern involves moving the fingers in concentric circles from the nipple outward.

Some guidelines suggest mentally dividing the breast into four quadrants and checking each quadrant separately. The palpation process covers the entire breast, including the "axillary tail" of each breast that extends toward the axilla (armpit). This is usually done once while standing in front of the mirror and again while lying down.

A woman who regularly performs BSE can detect breast cancer at its earlier stage. It is best carried out once a month before the menstrual period. BSE is recommended for ever women from age 20.

Other tests for cancer screening -
  • Mammography- recommended every year after 40 years of age. Women with family history of breast cancer should start screening at earlier age.
  • Ultrasound scan- recommended for women with small breasts where mammography may not be possible.

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