One out of eight American women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime, according to Breastcancer.org. Deaths related to breast cancer are the second highest in the U.S next only to lung cancer. Good news is breast cancer doesn't have to be fatal. In fact, around 2.5 million breast cancer survivors were documented last year. The key is to be able to detect breast cancer early.
How to do this? Experts have been long stating that breast self-examination (BSE) at least once a month is the best protection against the advancement of breast cancer. By examining your breast regularly, you become familiar with the normal appearance and feel of your breasts. This will make it easier for you to recognize abnormal changes if any. Ideally, do BSE two or three days after the last day of your menstruation since at this time, your breasts are least likely to be tender and swollen. If you're no longer menstruating, select a day that's easy to remember and do BSE on this day every month.
But do you know how to perform a BSE? It's fairly easy - just follow these steps:
1. Stand in front of a mirror. Examine both of your breasts for anything that is out of ordinary such as dimpling, puckering, scaling, reddening or swelling of your skin.
2. Next, inspect for any change in the shape and contour of your breasts. You can do this by:
- Raising your arms over your head and inspecting both your breasts on the mirror
- Placing and pressing your hands on your hips while bowing slightly toward the mirror and pulling your shoulders and elbows forward. This will tighten your muscles and will make changes more noticeable.
- Exploring your breast manually. Stroke your right breast with three or four fingers firmly and thoroughly. Using the flat part of your fingers, explore your breast from the outer edges of the breast moving towards the nipple in small and slow circular motions. Some experts advise on starting from the nipple to the base of the breast. Whichever way, make sure the whole breast is inspected. Don't forget to also examine your armpit. Feel for unusual lump or growth under your skin. Repeat procedure on your left breast.
3. Squeeze your nipples to look for discharge. Normally, there shouldn't be any discharge if you're not breastfeeding. Do the same on your other breast.
4. Lie down. Place a pillow under your left shoulder. While flat on your back, raise your left arm over your head. Your breast is easier to examine this way since your breast is flattened. Do step 2(c) and 3. Repeat on your right breast.
If you notice any abnormalities on your breast, consult your doctor right away.