Checking, or examining, your own breasts is a really important part of staying healthy. One reason women present to doctors with advanced cancer is that they didn’t recognise early signs. Breast cancer is most likely to be cured when found early, before it has spread outside the breast. Learn when and how to check your breasts.
When should I check my breasts?
The best time to check is often after a shower or a bath, while you are already naked. You should check the whole of the front of your chest. This includes your breasts and up to your collarbones and across and under your armpits. You should examine yourself about once a month at least.
How should I check my breasts?
First, look at your breasts in the mirror. Is there any change in shape or size that makes one bigger or smaller than the other? Is the nipple pulled-in or differently shaped from normal? Have I got a rash or skin changes on the breast? Has skin been pulled-in (dimpled) over any part of the breast? This can be a sign of an underlying cancer tethering the skin.
Next, lie back at 45 degrees and gently feel around the whole of each breast. Examine each breast in turn, going around the clock face. Sliding your hand over the skin of the breast can be a good way to pick up any lumps. Also examine your armpits for any lumps.
What other problems should I check for?
Persistent pain in the breast, or liquid coming from the nipple (without being squeezed) are other symptoms of breast disease. The best thing to do is to see your GP, and you can be referred on to hospital for a check up if needed.
Be aware of how your breasts look and feel, how they change over the course of your normal cycle and how they look in the mirror. Your partner may also be aware of how your breasts feel normally, and can help alert you to any changes. Never be afraid to seek help if you are unsure.