How To Check Your Breasts Properly
Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2015
By Mel MacFarlane: By the end of 2015, it is estimated that almost 55,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer. According to Breast Cancer Care, this equates to one diagnosis every 10 minutes. Out of those diagnosed with breast cancer, 12,000 will not survive.
For October 2015’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I decided to approach Cara with an article about the ways in which we can check our breasts properly and access life-saving treatment if we need it. It takes less than five minutes to examine your breasts, but many of us forget to add this to our monthly routine. For some, it’s a lifesaving skill. For others, it will simply provide reassurance.
Whatever your motives, taking the time to check your breasts could save your life.
Believe it or not, there is not right or wrong way to check your breasts. The most important thing is knowing what feels normal. Whilst in the shower, or in bed at night take the time to examine yourself and understand the different textures in each breast. Around 10 days before my period, my breasts are usually swollen and quite tender. Because I know these signs, when I examine my breasts I know that it’s nothing to worry about. It may be useful to keep a diary noting the difference in your breasts at certain times of the month so you understand what feels normal for your body and what doesn’t.
This vital exercise can help you spot abnormalities quickly so you can act on them.
When should I examine my breasts?
I would recommended examining your breasts a few days after your period starts. At this particular time, they are less tender and any premenstrual swelling has abated. For those who no longer have periods, a memorable date like the 1st of each month will act as a memory trigger.
For those with a family history of breast cancer, checking your breasts regularly is very important. Having breast cancer in the family can be an indication of the BRCA gene mutation which dramatically increases the ring of breast and ovarian cancers. As a rule of thumb, two close family members must have been diagnosed with the same type of cancer before you qualify for genetic testing.
However, other factors may be considered such as the age of those diagnosed. For more advice about genetic testing for breast cancer, call the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline (website here) on 01629 813000 and speak to one of their advisors.
When examining my breasts, what am I looking for?
Checking your breasts is confusing, I get it – I’ve been there too. We have so many lumps and strange tissues in our breasts, it’s hard to understand what is normal and what isn’t. That’s why getting to know your breasts is so important, any abnormalities will soon become apparent.
In the meantime, when examining yourself look for changes to the breast and surrounding tissue, such as:
- Changes in shape or size of the breast
- Changes to the nipple, (and) or the direction it faces
- Discharge from the nipple
- Rashes on the breast or around the nipple
- Strange lumps or a thickening of the skin that feels different from the rest of the breast
- Swelling in the armpit or around the collarbone
- Pain in the breast or armpit
A great way to start is by take off your top and looking at yourself in the mirror. Familiarise yourself with the size and shape of your breasts so any changes become apparent. Although, the term ‘checking breasts’ is the norm, you need to remember to examine under the armpit and right up towards the collar bone as this also contains breast tissue.
Put your hands behind your head and look for changes in the breasts, like puckering or unusual dimpling to the skin. After that, put your hands on your hips and check again, taking great care to look at the sizes and shape of the breast.
Next, lie down on the bed so that your breasts are flat. Flattening the breasts makes anomalies more apparent and helps lumps to stand out. Place your left hand behind your head and use the 3 middle fingers on your right hand to feel for any lumps under the tissue of your left breast. Use your fingers to slowly move down from the collar bone, down the full breast and across to the armpit. Move up and down the breast and increase firmness for deeper tissue.
Once the first breast is complete, repeat this for the right breast with your right arm above your head.
These rules also apply to men. Breast cancer isn’t as common in males but this does mean that our male counterparts are not checking. Around 350 men per year are diagnosed with breast cancer, so it is important to check regularly.
Firstly, don’t panic if you find a lump in your breast, 80% of breast lumps are found to be harmless but you do need to be seen by a doctor. Advances in technology mean that these examinations are now faster and less invasive, which means that it won’t take long to get the reassurance you need.
Remembering to check your breasts
Technology has played a great part in helping women remember to check their breasts. Particularly with the regular use of our tablets and smartphones. Set a monthly calendar reminder on your phone or download an app to help you along the way.
My favourite apps to remind you to check your breasts are –
- Keep A Breast – Check Yourself
- Curve Lurve
Each of these apps schedules a time each month to remind you to check your breasts, so staying on top of your examinations couldn’t be easier. Apps like the CoppaFeel app also contains useful information about treatment and advances in breast health and care.
For more information
If you’d like more information and advice about spotting the early signs of breast cancer, call the Breast Cancer Care Support Helpline on 0808 800 6000 and speak to an expert. The helpline is free to call is open Monday to Friday 9-5 and Saturdays from 10am till 2pm.
– Mel MacFarlane
About the writer: Mel MacFarlane is an experienced adult industry copywriter, product reviewer and business consultant. You can find her at her own leading sexuality magazine, Voluptasse. You can also follow Mel’s work on Twitter and Facebook.