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Breast self-exam (BSE)

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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Breast self-exam (BSE)

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Screening for breast cancer begins at home. Women of all ages should make it a habit to examine their breasts once a month. It is a fact that most women with breast cancer find their own tumors, often accidentally. Women who practice BSE find tumors at an earlier stage, while they are smaller and before they have spread.

A major goal of regular BSE is to let you become familiar with the feel of your own breasts. Then, if a change occurs, you will be quick to recognize it.

Breasts come in all sizes and shapes, just as women do. A woman's breasts change over her lifetime too. The shape, size, and feel of your breasts will be influenced by monthly menstrual cycles, childbirth, breast-feeding, birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, menopause, weight changes, and age.

When you do BSE, you are looking for a lump or an unusual thickening that feels different from the rest of your breast. Many women say that BSE can be confusing because their breasts always feel lumpy. The key to doing BSE effectively is to learn what is normal for you. This means practicing BSE regularly. In fact, some doctors and nurses recommend that, for the first month, you do BSE every day so that you really get to know the "topography" of your own breasts.

The best time to do BSE is 2 or 3 days after the end of your period, when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen. A woman who is no longer menstruating may find it helpful to pick a particular day that is easy to remember, such as the first of the month.

At the end of this brochure is a guide that takes you through a breast self-exam step by step. In addition, you can get a better understanding of the procedure by reviewing it with your doctor. Following your breast exam, ask the doctor to guide you through a BSE and to explain what you are feeling in your breasts. This can ensure that you are doing BSE correctly and thoroughly and make you more confident examining your breasts each month.

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