Early detection starts with you!

October 02, 2023 / Molina Healthcare

Early detection starts with you!

Women can survive breast cancer when it is found and treated early. Women should begin to self-examine their breasts at the age of 20. 

What is a breast self-exam (BSE)?

A breast self-exam helps you look for early signs of breast cancer. This exam allows you to get familiar with the size and shape of your breasts. Although, the American Cancer Society does not recommend regular clinical breast exams or self-exams as a breast cancer screening tool, this does not mean they should never be done. There are women who do self-exams to keep track of how their breast should look and feel. 

When to do a BSE?

If you still menstruate, do a BSE two to three days after your period ends. 

If you no longer menstruate, pick a day out of each month. It can be the first of the month or on the 15th day of each month. The idea is to not forget to do so. Create a monthly task on your phone or planner so you do not forget. 

How to do a BSE

If this your first time doing a breast exam or if you do not know if you are doing it correctly, do not worry. A breast self-exam is easy, does not take much of your time and can be done at the comfort of your home. 

You can do a breast self-exam one of three ways:

1. Mirror exam

  • Stand with your arms by your side and look for any changes in the:
  • Shape or size 
  • Skin color and texture 
  • Nipple color, texture and shape 
  • Vein patterns, check to see if you have an increase in the size of veins 

Place your hands on your hips. Press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Look at each breast carefully to spot any dimpling or puckering. 

2. Shower exam 

Women will often do a standing exam while they shower. This is because the skin is easier to examine when it is slippery.

  1. With the pad of your three middle fingers, check your entire breast and armpit area. 
  2. Move from the sides to the center. 
  3. Repeat this more than once using light, medium and firm pressure. Move in circular motions. Move in “wedge” shaped movements from the outer breast to the nipple area and back. Move up and down over the entire breast area. 
  4. Do this for both your breast. 

3. Lying down exam

When you are lying down, your breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall. In this position, you can easily examine both your breast and wider chest area. 

To check your breast while laying down, follow these steps:

  1. To check your right side, place a pillow under your right shoulder. Lift your right arm above your head. 
  2. With your left hand, press on your breast and armpit area. 
  3. Apply light, medium and firm pressure. Make sure to move in a circular motion, in a “wedge” shaped movement shaped movements from the outer breast to the nipple area and back. Move up and down over the entire breast area. 
  4. Squeeze your nipple. Check for lumps or discharge.
  5. Do this on your left breast as well. 

If you find any changes in your breast that are of concern, see your doctor. It is normal to panic or get scared, but it is also important to remember that a lump is not always cancer. 

While a self-breast exam is useful in helping spot breast cancer it should not take the place of a clinical breast exam or a mammogram.

Visiting your doctor often helps keep you healthy. For women it is important that you see both your primary care doctor (PCP) and gynecologist once a year. As you get older, screenings change.

Along with a monthly self-exam and a regular check-up make sure to schedule a mammogram. 

What is a mammogram and why is it important?

A mammogram is the best way to find breast cancer early. It spots breast cancer at an early on, even before it is big enough to see or feel. 

American Cancer Society guidelines for women who are at risk. 

  • Women between 40 to 44 have the choice of a yearly mammogram. 
  • Women ages 45 to 54 should get yearly mammograms. 
  • Women 55 years and older can get a yearly mammogram every other year. Screenings can continue if they are in good health and will live 10 or more years. 

For more information on how to schedule a mammogram, visit: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/how-to-schedule-a-mammogram/.







Category: Disease / Women's Health