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Student Health Services

Breast self-examination (BSE)

Breast self-examination (BSE) is one of three ways to detect breast cancer. The best cancer check is a breast x-ray or mammogram. The third way is a clinical breast exam.

BSE is easy to do. Knowing how your breasts look and feel will help you notice any changes. Early detection is the key to successful treatment.

BSE should be done monthly. Check your breasts about one week after your period. If you don't have regular periods, do it at the same time every month.

American Cancer Society Guidelines for Early Detection

Breast Self-Exam:
Optional, but provides an opportunity to know more about your body and your breasts.

Clinical Exam:
See a doctor or nurse for a physical breast exam. It should be part of a woman's periodic health examination. A clinical breast exam should occur about every 3 years for women in their 20s & 30s and annually for women over 40.

Mammography:
Women should have a baseline mammogram by age 40 and then once every year.

How to Examine Your Breasts

FEEL for Changes

Lie Down with a towel under right shoulder; raise right arm above the head.
Examine area from:

  • underarm to lower bra line
  • across to breast bone
  • up to collar bone
  • back to armpit



Use the pads of the three middle fingers of the left hand. Hold hand in bowed position. Move fingers in dime-sized circles.
Use three levels of pressure:

  • light
  • medium
  • firm

Examine entire areas using vertical strip pattern.

Now check your left breast with your right hand in the same way. If there are any lumps, knots or changes, tell your doctor right away.