Lump In Breast? Know Breast Self Examination & Signs of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is becoming more challenging each year! A lump in breast could be anything! A simple breast cyst, a solid breast tumor called Fibroadenoma (mostly in young females), or a frank breast cancer!

India is witnessing more and more numbers of breast cancer patients in the younger age groups. Therefore, regular Breast Self Examination (B.S.E.) can actually lower the risk by detecting the Cancer in early stages.

Related: What is Cancer? What causes Cancer? How does the Cancer cells spread?

Breast Cancer: Early Signs & Breast Self Examination

Before we begin to explain what Breast Self Examination is, and how can it help to detect an early breast cancer, let’s know about the risk factors, signs and symptoms of a breast cancer.

Risk factors for developing a breast cancer

The factors that govern the risk of getting Breast Cancer are grouped into various sections.

One untold and unfortunate truth is that: 

Even males can acquire Breast Cancer.

Yes, the Breast Cancer!! But this is very, very rare.

Cancer is caused because of either of the problems: Genetic imbalance, and Environmental factors.

Genetic causes that lead to Breast cancer are:

  • Being a woman (As already pointed that Even Males can acquire Breast cancer) is an obvious risk factor for developing Breast cancer.
  • Increasing age brings a more Invasive type of Breast Cancer
  • Genes for Breast Cancer: Mutations (Gene Defects) in two gene families BRCA1 and BRCA2 are responsible for the development of Hereditary Breast Cancer. Women with these inherited mutations also have an increased risk for developing other cancers, particularly ovarian cancer. There are other gene mutations too that lead to the development of Breast Cancer.
  • With a Family History of Breast Cancer, the risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease. Having one first-degree relative (mother, sister, or daughter) with breast cancer approximately doubles a woman’s risk. Having 2 first-degree relatives increases her risk by 3-fold.

Breast self-exam (BSE) is actually examining your breasts on your own at regular intervals. This seems to be an important way to detect early signs of breast cancer. It can prove important because it is that critical time when the Cancer is more likely to be treated successfully.

The bad news is that – Not every cancer can be found this way, but it is a critical step you can and should take for yourself!



Lifestyle-related (Environmental) risk factors for Breast cancer are:

  • Higher risk accumulates for those women who have had no children or who had their first child after age 30.
  • Use of Oral Contraceptives and DMPA (Injectable form of Progesterone Hormone) seems to have an increased risk of developing the Breast Cancer.
  • Use of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) after Menopause seems to have the similar picture of increased cancer risk.
  • Drinking Alcohol seems to have an increased risk as compared to the non-drinkers, though alcohol predisposes to various other types of Cancers in the body.
  • Physical inactivity and Obesity mainly after menopause seems to have an increased risk for developing the Breast Cancer.

Recently, New Emerging risk factors have been added to this making it more complex and life-threatening. They are:

  • Light exposure to the body at night
  • Very low Vitamin D levels
  • Chemical exposure through Cosmetic items, Processed Foods, Plastics, etc.
  • Unhealthy food especially in the younger age group

The Emerging Risk factors are being studied in greater detail to curb the ill effects of Breast Cancer in the community and Breast Self Examination can provide a shield against the breast cancer by detecting it in the early stages.

Breast Self Examination in Easy Steps

BSE stands for Breast Self Examination. One wonders, what makes this so important?

This is a screening method used against the Breast Cancer to diagnose and treat it in the early stage. It has a set number of defined practical steps that shall be done by women regularly to aid against cancer.

Steps of Breast Self Examination?

Breast Self Examination should be performed once each month beginning at the age of 20 years and continue monthly through a woman’s lifetime.


The most effective way to detect breast cancer is by mammography, and a clinical Breast Self Examination can complement mammography screening.

Please note: Repeat the process for both the breast

The practical steps for Breast Self Examination are explained below:


Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Look for any changes in Size, Shape, or Position, or any Skin changes on the breasts.
  • Look for any skin puckering, dimpling, sores, or discoloration.
  • Check on the sides and with your breasts falling while you bend forward.

Early Signs of Breast Cancer: What should be brought to your Doctor’s attention?

  • Dimpling, puckering or bulging of the skin.
  • Changed position of the nipple or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out).
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.

Remember to inspect the border underneath your breasts. You may need to lift your breasts with your hand to see this area.



While standing, raise your arms to inspect and look for the early signs of Breast Cancer as explained in Step 1 above.


Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.

Always check your nipples for discharge (fluid). Place your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and pull outward toward the end of the nipple. Look for any discharge. Repeat the same Breast Self Examination on your other breast.

Here’s what you should look for:

  • Look for any nipple discharge
  • Look for any lumps or thickening in your underarm area. Place your left hand on your hip and reach with your right hand to feel in the left armpit. Repeat on the other side.
  • Check both sides for lumps or thickenings above and below your collarbone. This way you can check the swollen lymph nodes.

Early Signs of Breast Cancer: What should be brought to your Doctor’s attention?

  • Discharge from the nipple(s) which occurs without squeezing!
  • Any lump soft or hard should be immediately brought to your doctor’s concern!

Remember to inspect the border underneath your breasts. You may need to lift your breasts with your hand to see this area.



Feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Look for any changes as explained in Step 3.

  • Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter to palpate your both the breasts.
  • Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
  • During the entire process of the Breast Self Examination think of your breast as a face on a clock. Start at 12 o’clock and move toward 1 o’clock in small circular motions.
  • Continue around the entire circle until you reach 12 o’clock again.
  • Keep your fingers flat and in constant contact with your breast.
  • When the circle is complete, move in one inch toward the nipple and complete another circle around the clock. Continue in this pattern until you’ve felt the entire breast.
  • Make sure to feel the upper outer areas that extend into your armpit.
  • Place your fingers flat and directly on top of your nipple. Feel beneath the nipple for any changes. Gently press your nipple inward. It should move easily.


Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting.  You may find it easier to feel your breast when the skin is wet and slippery. So, it is best to perform this BSE step in shower.

Using the same hand movements described in step 4, feel your breasts for any obvious swelling, skin thickening, lump or nipple discharge.


Though the Breast Self Examination is not the way to detect the early staging of Breast Cancer, indeed it’s helpful to some extent! Patients under high risk should visit their doctor and get the screening done for the breast cancer.

This is the way to perform Breast Self Examination in easy steps as a screening tool to prevent an early diagnosis of Breast Cancer. Spread the message for health awareness and healthy living. Stay happy and stay blessed!

Dr Navneet Goyal

Dr Navneet Goyal is an Anesthesiologist Doctor, Internet Entreprenuer, Self-taught Marketer, SEO and a Growth Hacker! He has also learnt Web Designing, Lead Management, Digital Marketing & Financial Planning through various resources. His goal is to enhance the current Education model into a Motivational Driven Self Learning Platform.