21 February, 2011

Breast self-examination: what do you see?

The breast cancer is, throughout the world, the most common malignancy in women, representing 28% of all cancers. It is also typical of developed countries. Currently one in eight women will develop, over a lifetime, a breast cancer.

The risk of developing it increases progressively with increasing age of the woman, a woman of 70 years presents a risk nearly 10 times higher than a 40.

The finding of a lump, lump or mass of hard consistency is the most common manifestation of breast cancer (80%). Another manifestation of the same, though more rarely (5%) is the bloody discharge from the nipple.

The detection of early-stage tumor carries a better prognosis and longer survival, moreover, in the case of breast cancer, its detection early allows less mutilating surgery and minor sequelae.

Breast Cancer Screening

The three most important tests for early detection of breast cancer with which we currently are:

  • Breast self

  • Clinical examination by the gynecologist

  • MamografĂ­a .

Breast self examination

breast self examination is the breast regularly by the woman herself in order to detect any alteration to suspect the presence of a tumor.

This is a simple test that is safe and low cost, but for its proper application requires a previous training of the employee.

Every woman should know the morphology and texture of your breasts, so that any changes will be discovered the same as soon as possible.

The breast self-examination lasts a few minutes, 4 or 5 at most. If the woman still has the menstruation have to practice the next day to complete the cycle. If the woman is in menopause should perform self-examination on the same day each month, to acquire and establish a permanent habit. Ideally, self-starting since the girl begins to have its first rules .

What is breast self-examination?

The self-examination should include:

  • A visual examination in a mirror

  • A manual examination of both breasts and armpits.

The pattern to be followed is:


the woman was placed standing before the mirror with your arms hanging along the body, naked from the waist up, with completely bare breasts and a good light (Figure 1).

Drawing for the first position of self-examination
Figure 1

In this posture observed:

  • if there are depressions in the breasts or abnormal elevations of the skin

  • if there are changes of color in the same

  • if the shape of the breast or nipple is different

  • scabs or retractions if the areola or nipple

  • any changes in relation to previous months.

It should not be alarmed if one breast is lower than the other or one is bigger than the other, which may be normal.


Raising arms toward the ceiling, she rotates the trunk to the right and left to check if any of the changes noted above (Figure 2). Then place hands on hips, pressing against his own body and from renewing mammary observation indicated in the first period.

Figure 2


Lying on the bed face up, you should put your left hand under your head and use the right hand to feel the left breast, fingers together, but not rigid (Figure 3). Try to see if they touch or hard lumps or nodules are painful areas. To do this we proceed as if the chest was a perfect circle that is divided into 4 quadrants: first palpate the upper inner quadrant from top to bottom or center of the thorax to the periphery, then the lower inner quadrant, then the outer bottom and then the upper outer (Figure 4). To finish the areola and nipple, so there are none left breast region unexplored.

Drawing for the third position of self-examination
Figure 3


With arm extended along the body will feel the hollow of the armpit hand sliding up and down the ribs (Figure 5), to check for lymph nodes to jump by moving the hand.

Figure 4


Finally, lightly squeeze the nipple between your fingers and look for any discharge comes out, looking then in color and features.

Drawing for the fifth position of self-examination
Figure 5


Similarly we will explore the right breast, placing right hand under his head and using the left hand to palpate.

The tests can discover:

  • Alterations of the nipple: if reversed or withdrawn, if you have any erosion or damage to the skin.

  • Serous or bloody nipple spontaneously or induced by pressure.

  • Redness of the skin of the breast, heat gain or appearance of "orange peel".

  • Presence of a breast lump, fixed or mobile, or poorly defined specific limits.

  • Retraction of the skin by setting a tumor below it.

Although the presence of lumps or discharge from the nipple may be due to many causes, in addition to breast cancer, appeared before the woman should consult a specialist.

Disadvantages of breast self examination

breast self-examination has a number of disadvantages:

  • You can generate situations of anxiety for many women, the psychological burden that represents its involvement in cancer diagnosis.

  • Because of the possibility, especially in young women, to find multiple nodes that will not ultimately transcendence.

It has been shown that its use serves to reduce mortality from breast cancer. Though probably this is the result of poor application of the technique and a low tracking the same, ie, that few women perform well, completely and periodically their self-exploration


Today, mammography is the ideal method for early diagnosis of breast cancer, since it can detect small tumors or nonpalpable deep, also has shown that regular mammograms for women over 50 years reduces mortality breast cancer by 20-30%.

In any case, despite the above, the self-exam can be a method that should be considered where there is no organized programs of early detection by mammography and in selected groups of women without symptoms, those that practice does not lead to emotional overload and can be adopted as a routine hygienic habit.

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