People are now living longer fuller lives after breast cancer but do you know the signs,symptoms and how to carry out a breast examination at home.
Most of us know the importance of breast health, it's drilled into us from a young age but the reality is not many know what to really look out for when you check your breasts. Breast awareness is knowing what normal feels and looks like to you so that if any changes do occur you will be able to recognise them much sooner.
Awareness around breast health is important as early detection is your best defence against breast cancer. In Ireland, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women after skin cancer and with thanks to science, people are now living longer fuller lives after breast cancer but do you know the signs, symptoms and how to carry out a breast examination at home?
What is a breast self-examination?
Breast self-examinations is a screening method used by women at home in an attempt to check their breasts for changes such as lumps, distortions or swelling.
How do I do a breast examination?
A self-breast exam can take place in the mirror, in the shower and even lying down.
In the mirror:
Begin by looking at your breasts in front of a mirror with your arms relaxed by your side. Look for changes in their usual size, position, shape and colour including skin irritations, redness, dimpling, an orange peel appearance, swelling or unusually enlarged pores. Observe your nipples and look for changes in their shape and direction, especially if one or both sinks into your breast. It is also important to look for a rash or flaky crusty skin. Check your armpit area for the same visible changes by raising your arms above your head. Don't worry if your breasts aren't normally equal in size, most women's breasts aren't.
In the shower or lying down:
Place your left arm behind your head and use your right hand to feel your left breast. Keep your fingers flat and with small circular motions firmly feel your entire breast for lumps or thickenings from top to bottom and side to side including your armpit. Continue the examination using an up and down vertical motion checking the whole breast again.
Other signs to watch out for are swelling in the armpit, constant pain in one part of the breast or armpit and during the self-exam, other than breastmilk it is important to check for nipple discharge.
When is the best time to carry out a breast examination?
The best time to carry out a breast examination is about 5-7 days after your period starts which is when your breasts are the least tender and lumpy.
When should I do if I find a lump or any other changes?
No matter how insignificant you might think it is, if you notice any unusual changes with your breasts, report it to your doctor without delay. Remember, most breast lumps are benign, meaning they are not cancerous but it is extremely important to get any lumps, bumps or abnormalities checked by a healthcare professional as soon as possible.