A breast self-examination (BSE) is an inspection by a woman of her breasts to detect breast cancer.
A BSE is one of three tests the American Cancer Society recommends to help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. By regularly examining her own breasts, a woman is more likely to find any changes that may have occurred.
The best time to performa BSE is about a week after a woman's period ends, when her breasts are not tender or swollen. If her periods are not regular, a BSE should be completed on the same day every month. A BSE should also be regularly completed by women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have breast implants. By combining a BSE with a mammography and clinical breast examination, a woman is offered the best opportunity for reducing chances of death from breast cancer through early detection. Close to 90% of breast cancers are found through a BSE. The American Cancer Society recommends that beginning at the age of 20, women complete a BSE each month by feeling for lumps or anything suspicious, as well as looking at their breasts carefully in a mirror for any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling, puckering of the skin, or changes in the nipple.
To complete a monthly BSE:
Before beginning a monthly BSE, a woman's breasts should be completely exposed.
Each woman's breasts have their own normal look and feel. By completing a BSE each month, a woman can determine what is normal for her and check for changes that may arise. A regular pattern of lumpiness in the breasts is normal.
If any changes are noticed during a monthly BSE, such as a new, hard lump in the breast or underarms, a doctor should examine the area immediately. Other trouble signs that should not be ignored include: