How should you check your breasts for signs of cancer?
It is widely recognised that when those who may be at risk of breast cancer take the time to examine their breasts, this can help them to identify any potentially concerning changes, which they can then report to a medical professional.
If you are reading this article, you are likely to appreciate how crucial breast self-examination can be for detecting any possibly worrying symptoms at the earliest possible stage.
It is important not to panic if you do think you feel a lump in your breast, as some women do have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts, and the majority of breast lumps turn out to be benign (non-cancerous). Examples of non-cancerous conditions in the breasts, which account for the majority of women visiting a breast clinic, include (but are not limited to) breast cysts, cyclical nodularity (fibrocystic disease), and benign nipple discharge.
Nonetheless, with breast cancer being the most common malignant disease among women, it is important to be alert to any potentially abnormal changes in the breasts. If such changes do turn out to be cancer, detecting them as early as possible will maximise the likelihood of the condition being treatable with good results.
So, with all the above in mind, here are some good tips to follow to ensure you carry out a thorough and effective breast self-examination.
Get accustomed to how your breasts normally look
Before we go any further, we should probably revisit the way we have phrased the title of this article. There is no “should” when it comes to checking one’s own breasts, as there is no right or wrong way to do it. However, if there is one thing that you might be especially well-advised to be mindful of, it is the importance of being aware of how your breasts normally look and feel.
One way in which you might ensure this, is by regularly looking at your breasts in the mirror, with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Indeed, it can be a good idea to begin by looking at yourself in the mirror with your arms down at your sides, and then with your arms up in the air.
Doing this routinely will enable you to maximise your awareness of such things as the normal size, shape, and colour of your breasts, and ensuring they are evenly shaped, with no visible swelling or distortion.
Feel around your breasts for signs of anything unusual
As we referenced above, positioning your body in different ways can aid your efforts to spot anything potentially abnormal about your breasts, and you can further help this process by not only looking, but feeling.
For this reason, many women check their breasts for lumps or anything else unusual from a lying-down position, as well as while standing or sitting. Women have often found that they can feel their breasts more easily when their skin is wet and slippery, so you might try doing your standing-up checks in the shower.
As for how you might do those checks, you may begin by feeling around each breast in a circular motion, before feeling under your arm, and then around the nipple.
Educate yourself on the symptoms that might require medical attention
Of course, even knowing the above processes well might be of limited use if you have little sense of what would constitute a potentially concerning symptom (other than the aforementioned lumps).
However, there are various breast changes that, if you notice them, would make it a good idea to reach out to a medical professional. These include any unexpected changes in the size, outline, or shape of your breast, as well as any rash, redness, puckering or dimpling on the skin of the breast.
A discharge of fluid from either of the nipples, any change in nipple position, and/or a new lump, swelling, thickening, or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that you do not recall coming across previously, could give you further reason to contact a medical expert as soon as possible.
Seeking help in this way will enable you to rule out breast cancer as a possible cause of the concerning symptoms – and if cancer is detected, it will allow for quick and suitable treatment to be provided.