“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important,” according to the Johns Hopkins Medical centre.
While mammograms can help you detect cancer before you feel a lump, breast self-exams are important because they help familiarise you with how your breasts look and feel so you can inform your GP if their are any changes.
How often should I perform a breast self-exam?
Adult women are encouraged to perform self-checks at least one a month.
What should I be looking for when I check my breasts?
Check both breasts for feeling of any lump, thickening or hardened knot. Look for any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling of the skin or changes of the nipples. you can also squeeze the nipple and check for discharge.
How do I self-check my breasts?
There are three ways to perform a breast self-exam.
In the shower: Using the pads of your fingers and in a circular motion move around your entire breast, moving from the outside to the centre. Check the entire breast and armpit area.
In front of a mirror: Visually inspect your breasts with your arms by your side. next, raise your arms high overhead. Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. You’re breasts will not exactly match – few women’s do – so look for any changes particularly on one side.
Lying down: When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads out evenly across the chest wall. 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 in small circular motions, from breast to armpit. Use light, medium and firm pressure. Do the same for your left breast.
If you do find a lump DON’T PANIC. Eight out of 10 lumps are not cancerous, but for peace of mind consult your health care practitioner or GP whenever you have concerns.
Remember mammograms can detect tumours before they can be felt so screening is key for early detection of breast cancer.