How It Is Done continued...
Use three different levels of pressure to
feel all of your breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue
close to the skin surface. Medium pressure is used to feel a little deeper, and
firm pressure is used to feel your tissue close to your breastbone and ribs. A
firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal. Use each pressure level
to feel your breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.
Check your entire breast using a lengthwise strip pattern. Feel all of
the tissue from the collarbone to the bra line and from the armpit to the
breastbone. Start in the armpit and work down to the bottom of the bra line.
Move one finger-width toward the middle and work up to the collarbone. Repeat
until you have covered the entire breast. Repeat this procedure for your left
breast. See a picture of
BSE using an up-and-down pattern .
You also can examine your
breasts using a spiral pattern. Again, use three different levels of pressure
to examine all your breast tissue. Avoid lifting your fingers away from the
skin as you feel for lumps, unusual thicknesses, or changes of any kind. See a
BSE using a spiral pattern .
Most breast tissue has some lumps
or thick tissue. When in doubt about a particular lump, check your other
breast. If you find the same kind of lump in the same area on the other breast,
both breasts are probably normal. Pay attention to any lump that feels much
harder than the rest of your breast.
If you find anything that
concerns you, schedule a visit with your doctor. The important
thing is to learn what is normal for you and to report any changes to your
doctor. Remember that most changes you find are not breast cancer
but should be checked. These changes may include:
- Any new lump. It may or may not be painful to
- Unusual thick areas.
- Sticky or bloody discharge
from your nipples.
- Any changes in the skin of your breasts or
nipples, such as puckering or dimpling.
- An unusual increase in the
size of one breast.
- One breast unusually lower than the
In addition to examining your breasts while lying down, you
may also check them while in the shower. Soapy fingers slide easily across the
breast and may increase your chances of detecting a change. While standing in a
shower, place one arm over your head and lightly soap your breast on that side.
Then, using the flat surface of your fingers-not the fingertips-gently move
your hand over your breast (in the strip pattern described above), feeling
carefully for any lumps or thickened areas.