Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Breast Self Exam (BSE): All Roads Lead To Rome

Breast Self Exam (BSE) is regularly checking your breasts on your own for any abnormalities. As simple as that. All the numerous methods and tips are variations on this simple question:

What's normal? What's not?

While BSE might not detect all changes in the breast, it can at least increase your chances of detecting ailments such as breast cancer in a more treatable stage. It is true, BSE is not enough, and this is why major breast cancer institutions have recently started recommending it as an optional detection method in addition to doctor exams and mammograms.

If about "20% of the time, breast cancers are found by physical examination rather than by mammography", then why not take this extra free, simple step routinely? Following is a walk through a few rich resources on BSE.

BSE is not the most comfortable activity to do and for some it is meaningless: 'What am I looking for?'

Yet, "the more you examine your breasts, the more you will learn about them and the easier it will become for you to tell if something unusual has occurred."

An important tip regarding timing, according to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF), is that you should do your BSE at the same time every month 7 to 10 days after the start of your period if you menstruate; otherwise, if you don't menstruate, pick a fixed day monthly.

We have picked for you three resources on how to perform a BSE and what to look for. Choose whatever works for you.

(1) We'll start with a very handy and informative illustration sheet produced by the CBCF. It details how to perform a monthly BSE and includes a suggested table to mark up your own notes and time outline on the right.

Click on the illustration to view it in full size or print a copy for guidance.

(2) Now meet "Rebecca" in this simple and rich illustration (created by Shala). She will walk you through one of the many ways to self exam your breasts. Click on the image for a larger view.


(3) Lastly, here is a five-step BSE method. Click on the image for more details:

1- Look at your breasts in the mirror with shoulders straight and arms on hips; know how your breasts look normally and keep an eye for how the skin looks and whether you can see any changes such as dimpling of the skin, inverted nipple, redness or soreness.
2- Raise arms and look for any changes.
3- Check if there is any discharge from the nipples.
4- Lying down, examine the right breast with the left hand and the left breast with the right hand, covering the entire area including armpits and using circular motion the size of a quarter with fingertips. 
5- Standing up or sitting down, examine the entire breast with the same motion as in step 4, which is easier during showering for some women.

Remember, all road lead to Rome. It doesn't matter as much how you self exam as long as you do it regularly and keep an eye for changes.

Below is a list of helpful resources. Leave us a comment about your own experience: do you perform regular BSE? How often? What encouraged you to start? Don't forget to share with your lady friends using one of the buttons below; you never know who might pick up the good habit.

Keep checking!


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1-  Breast Self Exam at National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.:  
3- Confused about Breast Self-Examination? at CBCF:
4- Look and Feel at CBCF:

Images/illustrations sources: 
1- (Rebecca stickfigure):
2- Woman and mirror:
3- Monthly Breast Self Exam and photo at CBCF:
4- (Breast Self Exam sheet):
5- The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam at


  1. Thanks again for all the info! My wife wants to do a two in one trip... She wants to go get a breast exam and Edmonton eye exams in one go.. Is there somewhere she can go for that?

  2. Thanks for your comment. We are not in a position to comment on eye exams. Apologies. You can consult with your family doctor for specialized breast exams.


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