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Community Health: Education, Prevention and Inspiration

Empowering people to make healthy, respectful and responsible choices.

What's the deal with BSEs?


One form of early breast cancer detection is the breast self-exam (BSE). The breast self-exam is not a means for diagnosis but detecting a lump can be the first step in getting further medical evaluation. Although 80% of lumps are non-cancerous, it is important to perform monthly breast self-exams starting at the age of 20.

So what should you be feeling for? Women have breast tissue that may feel stringy, ropey, or granular. This is called "Nodularity" and it is normal breast tissue that doesn't feel smooth to the touch. It may feel grainy or ropey under the skin. Don't expect the breast to feel smooth like Jell-O; they may feel more like cold, lumpy oatmeal.

Keep in mind that some women have more nodularity than others but in general most women can find nodular tissue along the upper outer breast area and along the natural bra line at the bottom of the breast mound. Nodularity changes over a woman's lifetime and monthly cycle. By contrast, lumps feel different from the rest of the breast tissue and can be distinguished from nodularity. Lumps have borders/edges or margins and are separate or distinct from the surrounding tissue.

Your fingers are a powerful tool! You already use them to select the best produce, so remember that the more you perform breast self-exams, the more familiarized you will be with the consistency of your breasts.

To learn more about how  and when to perform a thorough breast self-exam, take our free online course! http://web.extension.illinois.edu/breastcancer/



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