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
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
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
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.