Sunday, September 6, 2009

SPECIAL FEATURE /HEALTH: Self Breast Examination

Beginning from an early age, all women should be told about breast cancer as it is seen much earlier these days than ever, as early as in the late teens. More so, with an increasing incidence and prevalence of all breast pathologies (benign and malignant lesions) it’s becoming more important for us all to be breast aware!
Breast exam methods vary, but generally they involve using your eyes and hands to observe the appearance and feel of your breasts. A breast exam may be done while standing, in the shower or when lying down which is the best as the tissue spreads evenly over the chest wall and is as thin as possible making it much easier to feel, though the approaches are best combined. Breast exams can help identify potential breast problems and doing routine breast exams can give you a greater awareness of the condition of your breasts. You can learn how your breasts vary in sensitivity and texture at different times during your menstrual cycle and throughout different stages of life.
Below is a step-by-step simplified approach for breast exam. The best time for a woman to examine her breasts is when the breasts are not tender or swollen and it should be done periodically, once in a month preferably.
Lying down:
Lie down and place your right arm behind your head.
Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers (or the flat area of your palms) on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue. ( application of lotion may make this easier)
Use 3 different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. A firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast is normal.
Move around the breast in an up and down( a circular motion, like a clock maybe also be used) pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone (sternum or breastbone). Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).
Repeat the exam on your left breast, using the finger pads of the right hand.
Front of the mirror
While standing in front of a mirror (never mind a breast is always bigger than the other), with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, or dimpling, or redness of the nipple or breast skin. (The pressing down on the hips position contracts the chest wall muscles and enhances any breast changes.)
Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it harder to examine.
Next, check for nipple discharge, place your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and pull outward toward the end of the nipple. ( Remember to repeat for the other breast)
In the shower: With hands soapy, raise one arm behind your head to spread out the breast tissue. Use the flat part of your fingers from the other hand to press gently into the breast. Follow an up-and-down pattern along the breast, moving from bra line to collarbone. Continue the pattern until you have covered the entire breast. Repeat on the other side.
Always be sure to check the upper outer quadrant of the breast, towards the armpit as almost half of breast cancers occur in this area.
BSE only help early detection, the best method of early detection is mammography. Let me add that women with breast implants can also do a BSE, they may just need the help of the surgeon to identify the edges of the implant and that only about 80% of breast lumps are cancerous. In all, when breast cancer is detected in its early stages, the chances of surviving the disease are greatly improved.
Let’s spread this gist; it could save someone’s life! And not only to the women folk but also to the guys who have 1% of breast cancers (and with a worse prognosis) but believe me, as little or negligible as 1% may seem, it’s a different ball game if it’s someone dear to you. Breast cancer kills!

Submitted By Fatimah Oluwakemi Bello (no longer Pilot?)

The Editorial team wants to commend Kemi for submitting this very enriching article and those who are sending us posts (Kama tos tos!). We encourage you one more time to submit your article on the subject of your choice (all sorts of subjects are welcome) so that interaction keeps going on. Thanks.


  1. This post is very instructive. And the examination doesn't require to go to the hospital which is a very interesting aspect (for those who doesn't like it).
    Thanks Dr Kemi!

  2. Thank you Kemi! I will be trying this today. How often are we supposed to do the self-exam?