The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States are for 2011:
- About 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women
- About 57,650 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 39,520 deaths from breast cancer (women)
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is a little less 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. Breast cancer death rates have been going down. This is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and better treatment. Right now there are more than 2½ million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
Monthly Breast Self Examination, BSE, is probably the most important thing one could do to detect any changes in breast health.
How to Perform a Breast Self-Exam
Women older than 20 years should perform monthly breast self-examinations (BSE). If you still have menstrual periods, you should perform the examination a few days after your period has ended. During this time, your breasts are not tender. If you are not menstruating (such as in menopause), BSE should be performed on the same day each month.
Use the following techniques to perform a BSE. Choose the method that is best for you.
Facing a mirror
Stand before a mirror and compare both breasts for differences in size, nipple inversion (turning in), bulging, or dimpling. Note any skin or nipple changes, such as a hard knot or nipple discharge.
- Inspect your breasts in the following 4 steps:
- In these positions, your pectoral muscles are contracted, and a subtle dimpling of the skin may appear if a growing tumor has affected a ligament.
- Right breast
- Place a pillow under your right shoulder.
- Put your right hand under your head.
- Check the entire breast area with the finger pads of your left hand.
- Use small circles and follow an up-and-down pattern.
- Use light, medium, and firm pressure over each area of the breast.
- Feel the breast with the surfaces of the second, third, and fourth fingers, moving systematically and using small, circular motions from the nipple to the outer margins.
- Gently squeeze the nipple for any discharge.
- Left breast
- Repeat these steps on your left breast using your right hand.
In the shower
- A BSE can easily be performed while you’re in the bath or shower. Some women discover breast masses when their skin is moist.
- Raise your right arm.
- With soapy hands and fingers flat, check your right breast.
- Use the same small circles and up-and-down pattern described earlier.
- Repeat on the left breast.