Breast Self-Exam (SBE)

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

The early detection of breast cancer is an important factor in the successful treatment of this serious problem - and you're the front line of defense. Here's a quick and easy step-by-step guide to that all-important breast self-exam or BSE - and it only takes five minutes!

Breast cancer is one of the most serious health problems young woman face, and even if you have a regular mammogram and breast exam, you're still in the best position to detect a problem early.

Minute 1
Stand erect before a mirror with your hands on your hips. What you're looking for are breasts that have no noticeable changes in color, size or shape. That's a good thing

Indicators of possible problems (don't panic) are:
  • a bulge or puckering of the skin

  • a nipple that is inverted (turned inward), or one that has moved from its normal position

  • any unusual swelling of the breast, a rash or breast soreness that is out of the ordinary.
Minute 2
Next, raise your arms over your head. This will stretch the skin of the breast to provide a different view. Look for any of the conditions described under Minute 1. Also, note, that breast tenderness is often a part of the menstrual cycle so it makes sense to test yourself throughout the month. (Hey, it's five minutes - and it could keep you healthy.)

Minute 3
While facing the mirror, look for signs of discharge as you gently squeeze each nipple. Look for any discharge of a yellow fluid, blood or a milky discharge and report these to you physician first chance you get. (Still no need to panic, so have a nice cup of herb tea and relax).

Minute 4
Lie down on your bed with your right hand behind your head. Use your left hand to examine your right breast and vice versa. Gently move in a circle out from the nipple feeling for any unusual lumps or bumps. Be sure to cover the entire breast from collarbone to abdomen.

Next, repeat the circular procedure but apply more pressure to feel the deeper tissue. The deeper you can feel, the more effective the exam.

Put your left hand behind your head and follow the same procedure on you left breast. Note anything that feels out of the norm. As you conduct the BSEs regularly, you'll develop a better map of the harmless bumps and lumps, making it more easy to identify unusual or new lumps.

Minute 5
ake the final minute of your BSE in the shower while you're wet and soapy. Follow the same circular pattern, moving out from the nipple. The soapy water will heighten you tactile sensitivity (sense of touch), enabling you to locate smaller lumps you hadn't discover previously.

That's it - just five minutes every other week or so - well enable you to assist in your own health care in a very meaningful way. And you’re good, long-term health is certainly worth five minutes a week - no matter how busy you are.