One in nine women will get breast cancer at some time in their life, but despite this over a third of women in the UK don’t self-examine. If you don’t check your breasts regularly, or you’re not sure how to, keep watching. Early diagnosis really can be lifesaving.
Women’s breasts change shape, size and sensitivity throughout their lifetime but they also change during the monthly menstrual cycle so it’s a good idea to self-examine your breasts at the same time of the month, every month; that way you know you’re comparing like for like, and a good time is about one week after the end of your period.
Standing in front of the mirror, raise both your arms in the air. All breasts are naturally asymmetrical but you’re looking for any physical changes, any difference in size, has one got larger or lower? Look at the nipple, does it look any different? Has it inverted or changed position or shape? Is there any sign of a rash or a discharge? And check the skin for puckering or dimpling, and for any swelling in the breast tissue.
Now put your hands on the hips and push in so that you tense the muscle underneath and look again. You’re doing the same checks just to make sure.
You also need to be aware of how your breasts feel. Is there any continuous pain or discomfort in the breasts, or under the arms? So everything feels and looks OK? Good.
Self examination of the breasts can be done standing up or lying down. We’re going to start with the left breast and you need to imagine the face of a clock on your breast, so this is twelve o’clock, three, six and nine. Starting at twelve o’clock, using three or four fingers in the flat of your hand, you just need to roll the breast tissue in a circular motion over itself all the way around the breast, checking for lumps until you get to the top. When you’re back at the top move your hand in closer and repeat the cycle, checking for any unusual lumps, bumps or even thickening of the tissue. You keep going right the way round moving further in each time until you get to the nipple. Would you like to take over?
You don’t have to imagine a clock: you can use any basic sweeping method across the breast, just make sure you cover the whole breast. So once you’ve done the main breast area, examine the armpit because breast tissue is up under here too and then check the nipple for discharge by gently squeezing the twelve o’clock and six o’clock, and three o’clock and nine o’clock positions…
And it all seems fine. So you can check the other one. If there are any guys watching this, you should also self-examine because men have breast tissue too. In fact, each year around 290 men get diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK. Unfortunately half don’t survive because it wasn’t diagnosed and treated quickly enough.
If you do discover a lump or any other symptom, make an appointment to see your doctor straight away. Don’t panic, nine out of ten breast lumps that are referred to a breast specialist turn out to be benign but it is important that they are checked out, if it is cancer, early detection can stop it spreading. Breast cancer can be a killer, so female or male, make sure you check yours once a month.
How To Check Your Breasts
1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives, and at least a third of women will not self-check their breasts. Early diagnosis is essential in treating breast cancer, and that’s where monthly self-checks come in. If you’re not sure where to start – don’t worry! Dr Dawn Harper’s guide will give you advice on exactly how to self-check your boobs.
As Simple as TLC...
Breakthrough Breast Cancer advocate a simple TLC method that will help you spot abnormalities as early as possible.
TOUCH your breasts. Can you feel anything unusual?
LOOK for changes. Is there any change in shape or texture?
CHECK anything unusual with your doctor.
No one knows your body better than you and everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes – there’s no special technique and you don’t need any training. It’s good to get into the habit of doing this regularly – maybe when you’re in the bath or shower, or while getting dressed in the morning. You might prefer to do it while standing up or lying down. Either way, the important thing is to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel normally, so you notice anything unusual – and remember to check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits.
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