Breast care is one of the most important aspects of women’s health care. Detecting changes in the way her breasts look or feel is something any woman can do when she learns and practices monthly breast self-examination (BSE). BSE is not complicated or time-consuming. It takes only a few minutes each month.
Changes in the Breast
When we talk about breast “changes” we mean any change from what is normal for you. For instance, many women have “grainy” or “lumpy” textured breast tissue but do not have breast lumps. Others may have a slight, pearly-colored nipple discharge, which is normal for them. The best way to get to know what is “normal” for your breasts is to perform BSE every month.
When to Perform BSE
Monthly hormonal changes can cause differences in the way your breasts feel, so it is important to examine your breasts at the same time each month. For menstruating women, it is best to perform BSE one week after the onset of your period.
In addition to monthly BSE, you can help care for your breasts by having regular breast examinations by a healthcare professional and following the American Cancer Society’s recommendations regarding mammography (x-ray examinations of the breast).
Standing in front of a mirror, look at the appearance of your breasts. If you notice dimpling, or skin or nipple changes, or size changes you should contact your physician.
Using your thumb and forefinger, squeeze your nipple. Many women have a pearly-colored discharge, which is quite common, but If you notice a puss-like secretion or rust-colored discharge, contact your physician.
Visualize parallel “strips.”
Lie with one arm behind your head, and visualize your breast area divided into parallel “strips” . Examine each strip with the pads of your fingertips, using small circular movements. Use varying pressure to feel for changes throughout the breast — from just below the skin to the chest wall itself.