To use the “wedge” pattern, start at the outer edge of the breast, and move your fingers toward the nipple and back to the edge. Check the entire breast by covering one small wedge at a time.
You can also use a “circle” pattern by beginning at the outer edge of your breast and moving your fingers slowly around the whole breast in a circle. Keep feeling the breast in smaller circles, gradually working toward the nipple.
To use the “line” technique, start under the arm and move your fingers downward slowly until they are below the breast. Then move your fingers slightly toward the middle, and slowly move back up. Continue going up and down until you cover the whole breast.
Whichever pattern you prefer, remember to apply it up to the collar bone and out to the armpit.
What do you do if you find a lump?
One of the most important reasons to perform regular BSE is so that you know how your breasts look and feel under normal circumstances.
If you discover a lump in one breast or feel something “different” in the tissue, examine the same spot in the opposite breast. Usually, if the same area in the opposite breast feels the same there is little need for worry. However, if they feel different, or you feel a definite lump, there may be valid reason for concern and it is important to contact your doctor right away. Sometimes, the lumpiness may be due to menstrual changes, however, if you have nipple discharge or skin changes such as dimpling or puckering, your doctor may want to see you right away.
It is natural to be frightened when discovering a lump, but do not let the prospect of cancer delay you from taking action. Remember that 80 percent of all breast lumps are benign (non-cancerous).
Is BSE really an effective way to detect cancer?
Women who perform regular BSE find 90% of all breast lumps. Good technique is crucial: research shows that women who perform BSE correctly (inspecting the breasts visually and palpating with the pads of their middle three fingers) are less likely to die of breast cancer or have metastasis (cancer spread) to other parts of the body. Furthermore, women who report performing BSE thoroughly are about 35% less likely to develop advanced breast cancer.
There is nothing you can do that will absolutely prevent breast cancer. However, monthly BSE and periodic mammography and check-ups by your doctor can both lower your risk and promote early detection. Combining these measures with a healthy diet and regular exercise will also reduce your risk, and increase your peace of mind.