General Techniques of Self Examination



Breast Self Examination (B.S.E)




Breast Self Examination (B.S.E).
A woman's breast changes throughout her life. Aging, weight fluctuations, monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breast feeding, contraceptive pills, other hormone pills and menopause can produce these changes.

Most changes are harmless but they have to be checked. Some changes can be an early sign of breast cancer.

Breast changes are often found by women themselves. Therefore, all women should be familiar with and learn how to examine their own breasts. Women above 35 years should be examined once a year.

Regular Breast Self Examination (B.S.E) can help in noticing changes in the breast that occur in between a doctor's clinical breast examination or a mammogram (a special X-ray of the breast).



When to do a B.S.E.?
Breast Self Examination should be done each month throughout life. The best time in the month is at the end of the menstrual period when breasts are less tender. Women who have reached menopause also should examine their breasts monthly on a specific date like the first of the month.





Who should do B.S.E.?

  • All women over 35 years, each month.
  • Women who have silicone implants.

Frequent Practice

Since it has to be done regularly a woman should become familiar with her normal breast tissue and structure. Then only any changes in the breast can be noticed early.




When and if there is a change?
If a change is noticed in the breast a doctor should be consulted at the earliest. Most breast changes are not caused by cancer, but it is necessary to have all breast changes checked.

The reason is that if a breast cancer is found early, it can be treated in many ways and there is a good chance of complete recovery.

Important points for B.S.E:

Area to be covered by B.S.E.  
The picture shows the area which has to be examined during the breast self examination.

The examination starts from the collar bone at the top up to the bra line at the bottom and from the mid point between the breasts to a line vertically placed in the middle of the armpit on both sides.


Feeling your breasts

Click here for a Demo!

Use the pads of four fingers, work in small circles about two inches (5cm) across. Do not use finger tips.

At each spot you touch, you should use two pressure, that is pressure in two dimensions.

Feel lightly.

With the flat of your fingers, make the first circle with a light pressure, firm enough to make a slight depression in your skin. When doing this, you are feeling for anything near the surface of the skin.

Click here for a Demo!

Feel firmly

Click here for a Demo!

Feel firmly. At the same spot, make a second circle, pressing quite firmly so that you can feel the deeper tissues of your breasts. Most women can feel their ribs with the firm pressure.

There are two methods of examining your breasts:

  • For women with small breasts, examination during bath (under a shower) is an excellent method.
  • Women with larger breasts find it more comfortable to lie down while examining their breasts.

Whether you stand in the shower or bath, or lie down on a cot, you have to chalk out a programme imagining a clock face on your breasts. Examine in one direction,like a clock on your breasts. Working in small areas, start at the top (12 'o' clock position) at the outer edge of your breast and slowly move in side. Complete the whole breast area finishing with your nipple. Check your nipple. Normally, behind your nipple, it should be a little hollow. Then continue checking into your armpit and then to the collar bone.


In the shower.
Take as much time as possible. Put one hand behind your head and feel the breast with the other hand, using small circular motions. Examine each part of your breast right upto the area under the armpit and upto the collar bone.

Now place your other hand behind your head and examine the other breast.



Lying down.



After lying down, place a pillow or a towel under your right shoulder. Put your right hand behind the head. With the left hand check your right breast with small circular motions examining each part of your breasts, remembering the area behind the nipple, armpit and the collar bone. Now place the left hand behind your head and a pillow or towel under your left shoulder. Check your other breast with the right hand as before.


Check your breasts in front of the mirror.
Whether small or large breasts, you should examine them in a mirror for changes in shape, size, or any dimpling or puckering of the skin or alteration in the nipple.

Check your breast in the 3 positions shown below, because sometimes changes are seen only in 1 position.

Position 1. Arms at the side.

Position 2. Arms raised above the head

Position 3. Tighten your chest muscles by placing your hands on your hand pressing your hand down firmly.

If you are not sure how to examine your breasts, take the advice of your doctor. You can visit your doctor, ask the doctor to check your breasts and also verify that you are examining yourself correctly.


Hands on the hips



What should you look for when you are examining your breast?

  • Any unusual lump in the breast.
  • Abnormal puckering or dimpling of the skin of the breast.
  • Changes in the size or shape of the breasts.
  • Any blood-stained discharge from the nipples.
  • Persistent scabbing or other changes to the nipple.
  • If you find any one or more of the above changes, it does not necessarily mean you have cancer. But you should consult your doctor immediately to find out the cause.

If breast cancer is detected early, the chances of cure are greatly increased.

Breast Self Examination at monthly intervals will help you find any changes that require further examination.

Even if you find a lump during self examination, remember that nine out of 10 such lumps are not cancer. However, all lumps should be treated with suspicion and you should consult with your doctor imemdiately.




Skin Self Examination



Why should I perform a Skin Self Examination?

A regular skin examination a must. You can do this at home yourself. A daily habit of performing an skin self examination (S.S.E) may prove to be a life saver and take you to the clinician early enough for proper action to be taken, so that there is a higher chance of cure, in case a cancer does crop up.




How do I perform a Skin Examination?

  • Do it after a shower or bath.
  • Use a well lit room.
  • Use a full length as well as a hand held mirror.
  • Check yourself from head to toe. Don't forget to check the palms, soles, between the buttocks, in the genital region, on the scalp, and underneath the nails.




What do I look for?

  • Are there any new moles, warts or colored patches which have cropped up?
  • Has any old mole or wart changed it's size, shape? Is it bleeding? Has the color changed?
  • Are there any unusual lumps felt or seen?
  • Is there a sore or an ulcer or wound which is refusing to heal or is actually spreading?

If you find that your answer to any of the above questions is yes, visit your clinician now.





Oral Self Examination



Why should I perform an Oral Self examination?

Cancer of the oral cavity is extremely common in Indian society, because of our cultural and environmental habits. We Indians not only indulge heavily in smoking but also in nonsmoking tobacco.

This makes a regular oral examination a must. You can do this at home yourself. A daily habit of performing an oral self examination (O.S.E) may prove to be a life saver and take you to the clinician early enough for proper action to be taken, so that there is a higher chance of cure, in case a cancer does crop up.




How do I perform an Oral Self examination?

  • Do it in the morning.
    The best time is after you have brushed your teeth and rinsed out your mouth thoroughly. No artifacts (food particles or debris) will then create a false impression.
  • Stand in front of a mirror in good light.
    You will be able to visualize the entire oral cavity well.
  • Look systematically.
    • With your mouth closed, hold your lip with the tips of your fingers and evert it. Look at it carefully.
    • Curl your lips back and inspect your teeth by gritting them together. This will also bring your gums into the picture.
    • Open your mouth wide and look at the top of your tongue.
    • Curl your tongue tip upwards, then sideways. Look at the floor of the mouth. Finally, stick your tongue out as far as it can go.
    • Pull your tongue back. Look at each cheek's inner surface.
    • Look at the roof of the mouth.
  • Feel systematically.
    Using the index finger of one hand, feel all the parts of the oral cavity in the same sequence as you looked.




What am I looking for?

  • Is there any sore or patch on your lips?
  • Is there any bleeding from your gums? Do your gums look thicker than normal anywhere?
  • Are there any missing teeth, which seem to have fallen spontaneously?
  • Are there any patches or sores on your tongue?
  • Is your tongue protruding out of your mouth as much as it usually does?
  • Are there any sores or patches on your inner cheeks?
  • Are there any sores or patches on the floor of your mouth or on the roof?




What am I feeling for?

  • Do you feel any bulges or lumps or irregularities in the areas you examined?

If you find that your answer to any of the above questions is yes, visit your clinician now.




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