What Every Woman Needs to Know
As a woman, you are at risk for breast cancer. In fact,
American Cancer Society
statistics show that one out of every eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Even men can get breast cancer. But thanks to better, more advanced treatments, many of those diagnosed with breast cancer will go on to live full, active lives.
Early detection is important, because when a cancer is detected in the early stages, treatments can be more effective. You may have heard about different ways to test for breast cancer. One of the easiest is the Breast Self-exam (BSE), a physical examination of your own breast tissue. The BSE is something you can do by yourself, in private, on your own schedule. By getting to know how your breasts normally look and feel, the BSE can be an added defense against dying of breast cancer. In fact, eight of 10 breast lumps are found by women themselves. The Breast Center at City of Hope follows the Breast Screening Guidelines recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (
How Often Should I Perform my Breast Self-exam?
According to the NCCN guidelines, you should perform a BSE each month. By becoming more familiar with your normal breast tissue and appearance, it may make it easier for you to notice changes if and when they occur. When Should I Perform my Self-exam? The ideal time for a BSE is seven to 10 days
after the first day of your menstrual period. Your breasts are naturally less lumpy and tender at this time. The same is true if you have breast implants. If you are pregnant, or no longer have menstrual cycles, you can perform your BSE at any time, but make it the same time each month. If you are breast feeding, you should also perform your monthly BSE at the same time each month. Be sure to do it after you have fed the baby, not before. Any time of the day is okay.
How do I Perform my Self-exam?
Your BSE will only take a few minutes, but it is best to choose a time when you have some privacy and will not be disturbed.
Most commonly, lumps such as cysts, are benign and are usually not a serious health problem. However, always report any changes in your breasts to your health care provider. Remember, breast tissue can vary in density naturally. Your breasts may change during different times of the month if you are still menstruating. Breast tissue also changes with age.
Early detection is important, because treatments are more effective when cancers are small.
Try to avoid being rushed during your BSE, so that you can pay careful attention to your body.