It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October and so we want to take the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of checking your breasts regularly and knowing how to do it. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK, with 1 in 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, making it vital to know how to check and care for your breasts. Although most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 50, breast cancer can affect women of all ages.
While mammograms are important to get an overall view of breast health, 40% of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is vital. As research has revealed that just 48% of British women check their breasts regularly, we want to give you a quick and easy guide to how to check your breasts and know what you're looking for.
What to look for
Although a lump is the most obvious sign (although this could also be a benign cyst or blocked duct), there are also less common signs to look out for. These can include inverted nipples, dimpling, a change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast or unexplained nipple tenderness.
How to check your breasts
In the Shower
This can be an easier option as the water allows your hands to slide easily over the skin.
Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, hardened knot or any other breast changes. With the flats of your 3 middle fingers check the entire breast and armpit area, pressing down with light, medium and firm pressure.
In Front of a Mirror
Get familiar with how your breasts look on a day-to-day basis and also at different stages of your cycle. Visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering or changes, particularly on one side.
When lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall, so place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast, gently covering the entire breast area and armpit. Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple and check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
For more information and advice, visit Cancer Research UK.
Article by Jessica Harris
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