Breast Self-Exams (BSE)
Give yourself a breast self-exam once a month.
40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular monthly breast self-exam is very important.
Look for any changes in breast tissue, such as changes in size, feeling a palpable lump, dimpling or puckering of the breast, inversion of the nipple, redness or scaliness of the breast skin, redness or scaliness of the nipple/areola area, or discharge of secretions from the nipple.
If you discover a persistent lump in your breast or any changes, it is very important that you see a physician immediately. Though 8 out of 10 lumps are benign, all require evaluation to confirm that they are not cancerous.
Women should perform their breast self exam 7-10 days after their menstrual period starts which is also when their breasts are the least tender and lumpy. If they are no longer menstruating, then she should select the same day of the month (first of the month for example) and mark it on the calendar to remind herself when to perform this self exam. What to look for is a change from last month’s exam to this month’s exam. It is not unusual to have lumpy or bumpy breasts.
All women should know the geography of their own breasts. If having trouble remembering, draw a diagram of where the lumps, bumps, grooves, and other findings are felt so that this can be used as a reminder from month to month. There is no added value in doing breast self exams more often than monthly. Also the findings may be different as well, in relationship to where a woman is in her menstrual cycle.
Breast Lumps or Lumpiness
Many women find their breasts feel lumpy. Breast tissue naturally has a bumpy texture that varies from one woman to another. For some women, the lumpiness is more pronounced than for others. In most cases, this lumpiness is no cause to worry. If the lumpiness can be felt throughout the breast and feels like your other breast, it is likely just normal breast tissue.
Lumps that feel harder or different from the rest of the breast tissue (or the tissue of the other breast) or that feel like a change are a concern. This type of lump is more likely to be breast cancer, though some benign breast conditions (such as cysts and fibroadenomas) can cause similar changes. See your docotr if you:
- Find a new lump or change that feels different from the rest of your breast
- Find a new lump or change that feels different from your other breast
- Feel something that is different from what you felt before
If you are unsure whether you should have a lump checked, it is best to see your doctor. Although a lump may be nothing to worry about, you will have the peace of mind it has been checked.