Breast Self Examination

  • Breast Self Examination (BSE) should be done once each month by women 20 years and older.

  • The best time to do BSE is 7-10 days after the start of menses, when the breasts are least tender. If you no longer menstruate, do BSE on a fixed date every month, for example the first day of each month.

BSE involves 3 steps:

  • Looking for changes at the mirror
  • Feeling for changes lying down
  • Feeling for changes while in the shower
  • The purpose of BSE is to enable you to become familiar with the normal feel of your breast tissue so that you can recognise any abnormal changes.

While doing BSE, you need to look for:

  • A lump that persists
  • A change in the size or shape of one breast
  • A dimpling or puckering of the skin (like orange peel)
  • A retraction (pulling in) of the nipple
  • A discharge (clear or bloody) from the nipple

If any of these changes are felt or seen, you should consult a doctor immediately.

If you have a breast change… do not panic! Most breast changes are not breast cancer but all should be checked by a doctor.

  • See a doctor who will examine your breast, ask questions about your change, and find out about any relevant medical and family history. This will help the doctor determine if your change is normal or if a review at a later date or further tests are required.

  • You may be referred to go for a mammogram and/or ultrasound, which will be reviewed by a radiologist.

  • If abnormalities are detected by the mammogram or ultrasound, a biopsy will be recommended. A fine needle may be used to obtain some cells or a larger needle to remove tissue from the affected area for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.

  • If cancer is detected, you will be referred to a breast surgeon.

If you have concerns or questions about the investigation of your breast change, talk to your doctor or seek a second opinion.

Clinical Breast Examination

  • Women 40 years and older should go for a Clinical Breast Examination once every year. This is an examination of the breast tissue by a healthcare professional.

  • Clinical Breast Examinations can be done at your GP clinic or polyclinic, or at a Gynaecological clinic.

  • The healthcare professional, usually a doctor, will palpate (feel) both your breasts and do a visual examination. If he/she finds anything suspicious, you will be referred for further testing (such as a mammogram/ ultrasound/ biopsy) or recommended a follow-up after a certain length of time.

Mammography Screening

Mammography screening is a low-dose x-ray examination of the breast that can pick up very small breast cancers. During mammography screening, the breast is gently flattened between two plates of the X-ray machine for a few seconds, to spread the tissue apart and get a good image of the breast. Images of the breast are taken and developed by a radiographer (a technician) who then hands the X-ray films to a radiologist (a doctor) to check for abnormalities.

It is recommended that women aged 40 – 49 should go for mammography screening once a year, and women above 50 should go for one once in 2 years.