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 Health for Her

Breast Care

Who should do BSE?

Breast Cancer does not discriminate and has been known to affect even very young women. 

  • All women should begin practising BSE from an early age and ensure that it is a regular habit by the age of 25, especially if there is a family history of breast cancer. It is however, more common to find abnormalities over the age of 35.

  • You should continue to do BSE throughout your life, as there is more risk of getting breast cancer as you get older.

When should I check my breasts?

  • Check your breasts once every month.

  • BSE should be practised at the same time every month. The best time is a couple of days after the end of your period, when your breasts are less tender or lumpy.

  • If you no longer have periods choose a particular day such as the first day of each month to check.

A Guide to Breast Self Examination (BSE)

By doing BSE, you get to know how your breasts look and feel so you can see any changes that may appear. BSE is one way you can do something about your own health.


Undress to the waist. Stand in front of a mirror in good light. Get to know what your breasts usually look like so you can then see any changes that may appear.

What do I look for?

  • Changes in the size and shape of your breasts.

  • Any dimpling or puckering of the skin.

  • Anything different about the nipple


Raise your arms above your head and look carefully for any changes.

If you put your hands on your hips and tighten your chest muscles, you can look carefully for any changes.



Use the flat part of your fingers, not your fingertips, to feel each part of your breast.

At each part you feel, circle firmly with the flat of your hand.

Check the whole area of the breast as shown in the picture to the right

Imagine a clock face on your breast. Begin at the midnight position at the outside edges of your breast and slowly circle inward. Cover the whole breast area, finishing with your nipple. Check your nipple. Behind your nipple there should be a little hollow. Then check right up into your armpit.

Feel your breasts

If you have smaller breasts you may find it easier to check them in the shower or standing in front of a mirror.

If you have larger breasts you might find it easier to lie down to check them.


In the shower or standing in front of the mirror

To check your right breast, put your right hand behind your head. Use your left hand to check your right breast. Now put your other hand behind your head and check your other breast in the same way.

What do I check for?

  • Lumps, even if they are painless

  • Thickening in your breast.

  • Any discharge from your nipple.

  • Any other changes.


Lying Down

To check your right breast, lie down and put a small pillow under your right shoulder. Put your right hand behind your head. Use your left hand to check your right breast.

This position flattens your breast and makes it easier to feel any changes.

Now put your other hand behind your head. Put the pillow or towel under your other shoulder, and check your other breast in the same way.

If you find a lump or changes in your breast.

It is normal to be concerned if you find lumps or changes in your breasts.

If you notice any changes you should see your doctor straight away. It is far better to have any changes checked than ignore something that might be cancer. Your doctor can reassure you that everything is all right, or refer you to a specialist for further tests.

Your doctor or women's health nurse can give you more information about BSE.


  1. From age 25, or earlier if you have a family history, check your breasts once a month.

  2. If you are aged 40 or over, also see your doctor once a year for a breast examination.

  3. If you are 50 or over, also have a screening mammogram (breast x-ray) every two years. Call Breast Screen on 13 20 50 to arrange an appointment for a free screening mammogram.

  4. See your doctor immediately if you notice any changes in your breasts.

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