Breast Self-Exam: Early Detection is Key

According to, the American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in women in the United States for 2015 are:

  • About 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer
  • About 40,290 deaths from breast cancer
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

These statistics are scary, but they also reinforce the importance of the need for women to have a breast-care strategy that includes regular screenings when age appropriate, clinical breast examinations, and performing regular breast self-exams (BSEs).  Because of on-going uncertainty as to the value of BSE, the American Cancer Society has chosen to advise women that BSE is an optional choice for breast cancer screen; on the other hand, still believes that BSE is a useful and essential screening strategy, especially when used in combination with regular physical exams by a doctor and mammography.

If you choose to incorporate BSE into your breast-health strategy, here are some tips:

  • Do it once a month several days after your period ends, when your breasts are least likely to be swollen and tender. Post-menopausal women should choose a day that's easy to remember.
  • Strip to the waist and stand before a mirror. You will need to see both breasts at the same time. Stand with your hands on your hips and check the appearance of your breasts. Look at size, shape, and contour. Note changes, if any, in the skin color or texture of breasts, nipples, and areolas.
  • Raise your arms over your head, see if your breasts move in the same way, and note any differences. Look at size, shape, and drape, checking for symmetry.
  • One at a time, raise each arm overhead, and use opposite hand fingers to apply gentle pressure to each breast. You can use a circular motion, being sure to cover the entire breast area, into the armpit. Take note of any changes in texture, color, or size. This is best done in the shower, as wet skin will have the least resistance to the friction of your fingers.


Ask Dr. Strebel or Dr. Grolle for a lesson on how to do a BSE at your next appointment.


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