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How To Check Your Breasts

Checking your breasts on a regular basis is very important.

Any changes or unusual lumps may be an indication of breast cancer, so you need to become familiar with their natural shape, size and feel.

It is recommended to check your breasts at least once a month, a few days after your period ends. To remind yourself to do so, put a reminder on your calendar or in your phone each month.

What should you check for?

There are a number of things you should check for when examining your breasts. The most obvious is a lump in your breast or armpit. Swelling is something you should watch out for too, including in your collarbone and armpit areas.

Changes in your breast or nipple are another thing you should check for. Look for a change in the size or shape of your breast. Changes in or around your nipple such as dry skin, redness, discharge or change in shape should also be looked out for.

Any changes in the skin on your breast such as dimpling, redness or puckering should also be checked. Unusually large pores known as orange peel skin is another thing to watch for.

Be wary of any pain in your breasts, nipples, armpit or collar bone area. If you notice anything at all strange or unusual on your breasts, make contact with your doctor to get it checked out.

Be aware that your period, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause may cause changes in your breasts. For example, your period may cause your breasts to be larger, sore or lumpy. This usually goes once your period ends. It’s important to be familiar with your breasts both on and off your period so that you can spot what is unusual for you.

How do you check?

You should first check your breasts by standing in front of a mirror. Place your hands on your hips and shoulders back and look for anything unusual in appearance. Repeat this with your hands above your head. Looking for changes in the appearance of your breasts is just as important as feeling for lumps.

The next step is to feel your breasts. Use your right hand to check your left breast. Put your fingers together and keep them flat. Move them in small circular motions as you make your way around your breast. Make sure to cover your entire breast top to bottom and side to side. Check from your collar bone right down to the top of your abdomen. Make sure to also check across from your armpit to your cleavage. Repeat this on both breasts.

You should use a pattern to make sure you cover the entire breast. For example in up and down lines like you would mow a lawn, covering every inch. Check your breasts while both standing and lying down. Many women like to check their breasts while standing in the shower as it is easy to move your hand across the area.

This is a helpful video to show you how to perform a breast self-exam:

I’ve found something, what do I do?

Most women will notice nothing unusual after they perform their regular breast check. However, this does not mean you should stop checking. You should continue to check your breasts regularly each month, even if you’ve found nothing this time.

If you’ve noticed anything unusual in the appearance or feel during your check, make contact with your doctor. Call and explain to them what you have found. They will likely bring you in and perform a breast examination on you themselves.

Your doctor may refer your for a breast screening. This is called a mammogram and will take an x-ray of your breast tissue. If you’ve found a lump, your doctor may want you to have the lump removed and tested which is called a biopsy. These are both usually day procedures and will be over with quickly.

Do not be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you have about your referral or discuss any fears you may have. It’s okay to ask for a second opinion too if your doctor decides not to refer you and you would like to be checked further. If you get an all clear it is important to continue to check each month.

Women aged 50 to 69 are entitled to a free mammogram every two years. You can find more information on this here.

Some useful websites for further information are:

https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/how-to-check-your-breasts.html

https://www.cancer.ie/cancer-information-and-support/cancer-types/breast-cancer/how-to-check-your-breasts

 

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