The sooner a woman starts becoming more breast aware the better. This means knowing what is normal for you so that if any unusual change occurs, you will recognise it. The sooner you notice a change the better, because if cancer is found early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts from time to time.
What changes should I be aware of?
A change in size or shape - it may be that one breast has become larger
Changes in the nipple - in direction or shape, pulled in or flattened nipple
Changes on or around the nipple - rash, flaky or crusted skin
Changes in the skin - dimpling, puckering or redness
‘Orange Peel' appearance of the skin caused by unusually enlarged pores
Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone
A lump, any size, or thickening in your breast
Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit
How to do a Breast Exam
Looking for Changes
One way of looking is by using a mirror so that you can see the breasts from different angles
- To start, place arms at your sides then look for dimpling, puckering, or redness of the breast skin, discharge from the nipples, or changes in breast size or shape.
- Look for the same signs with your hands pressed tightly on your hips and then with your arms raised high.
Feeling for Changes
An easy way of feeling your breast is with a soapy hand in the bath or shower. Some women prefer to feel for changes while lying down. It is recommended that you do both. Feel with the pads (not tips) of your three middle fingers. With your right hand, keeping the fingers flat and together, gently feel your left breast without pressing too hard. Then change hands and examine the other breast.
Circle: Begin at the top of your breast and move your fingers slowly around the outside in a large circle. When you return to the top, move your hand a little closer to the nipple and make a smaller circle. Do this in smaller and smaller circles until you have examined all of the breast tissue.
Lines: Begin in the underarm area. Slowly move your fingers down until they are below your breast. Move your fingers closer toward your nipple and go slowly back up, using the same motion. Use this up-and-down pattern all the way across your breast.
Wedge: Begin at the outside edge of your breast. Slowly work your way in toward the nipple, doing one wedge-shaped section at a time. Do this until the entire breast area has been examined.
For more information on Breast Cancer and screenings check out www.mariekeating.ie and www.breastcheck.ie