Let’s Do A Breast Check – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is breast cancer awareness month, dedicated to opening up the conversation about breast cancer, remembering those who are affected or have been affected by this type of cancer, educating people on how they can get to know their boobs better and perform self-exams, and shedding light on how you can notice the early signs of it.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide, but thankfully, when caught early, it’s also one of the most treatable and the survival rate is high.
So, we’re taking a moment to talk about boobs. Let’s be honest, they don’t get talked enough about anyway, and this is the best reason to get a little chatty about them!
Why Should You Do A Breast Exam?
Studies show that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime.
However, mammograms in the UK are only routinely offered to people that are aged 50 and over, and therefore it’s incredibly important that if you are under this age you are making a conscious effort to check your boobs.
Although the 1 in 8 statistics might seem a little confronting, if breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate is more than 98%. So, checking your breasts regularly is a great way to ensure that if you do notice any abnormalities, you can detect them and get them checked out as soon as possible.
What Does A Normal Breast Feel Like?
Before we dive in and tell you how you can do a self-exam, it’s important to address this common question, “what should a normal breast feel like?”. The answer to this is that there’s no such thing as normal.
Every person’s breasts are completely unique, meaning they will have different skin textures, colours, perkiness, etc. In fact, many women know that their normal breasts actually have lumps and bumps or that certain lumps tend to appear during specific times of their menstrual cycle.
Therefore, when you start to examine your breasts, it’s not that you should be aiming for a “normal” feeling, but you should be getting to know what’s normal for you. Over time, whilst checking your breasts regularly, you will be able to know what’s normal and what’s not, hence the reason it’s so important to keep up with touching them!
How To Do A Self-Exam of Your Breasts: 5 Steps
Doing a self-exam of your breasts might seem a little nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve never done it before, but don’t worry, you’re in trusted hands — your own!
The aim of a self-breast exam is to get to know your boobs, because if you’re familiar with how your boobs feel normally, you’ll be able to tell if anything feels unusual and then you can head to the doctor straight away.
Although having a good feel of your boobs generally is still a great idea, there are specific things you can do when you’re performing a self-exam on your breasts to ensure that you’re checking them properly and in a way that will not only help you become more aware of your breasts, but will help you identify any lumps or bumps if you have any.
So, here are 5 steps you can take to do an exam on your breasts:
The first step is super simple, all you need to do is get naked from the waist up and take a look at your boobs in the mirror. Take a good look at your boobs and make sure everything looks normal for you - you want to be specifically looking out for anything that looks abnormal, such as swelling, dimpling, changes to your nipple, or fluid coming from the nipple. You should do this both with your arms by your side and then with your arms above your head.
Whilst still standing, or in the shower (a lot of women find this a convenient time to check their boobs), take your hand, and pressing with the flat side of your middle three fingers, check around both of your boob and armpits. You should take time to get to know your boobs and watch out for any lumps or particularly hard areas.
You may also want to check your boobs whilst lying down, as the breast tissue flattens and spreads out when you do this and may make it easier for you to check your boobs. You may also find this position easier to check the underside of your boobs (after all, all parts of your breasts should be examined!) and it could even help you to locate any lumps or bumps that might be trying to hide.
If you do feel a lump, don’t panic — this could be normal for your boobs (especially if you haven’t checked them before), or it could occur due to menstrual or hormonal changes and fluctuations. However, just to be on the safe side, if you do feel any lumps or any kind of unusual consistency in the skin on or around your boobs, book in at the doctors so they can have a closer look and refer you if necessary.
Don’t just do this once! You should be aiming to perform a self-exam on your breasts at least once a month. So, pop a recurring reminder on your calendar and make sure you keep regularly checking your boobs - this way, it’s going to be much easier to notice if anything changes.
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
There are a few symptoms of breast cancer that are important to know and look out for, but even more importantly, if something doesn’t feel right to you (even if it’s not a common symptom), head to the doctor as soon as possible to get it checked out. After all, you know your body best and when something doesn’t feel right.
Here are the most common symptoms and warning signs of breast cancer:
- New lumps or bumps on the breast.
- New lumps or bumps in the armpit.
- Swelling or thickening of the breast tissue or specific area of the breast.
- Dimpling of the skin.
- Change in the size or shape of one or both breasts.
- Change in the appearance of the nipple or that it looks like it’s pulling inwards.
- Rashes, redness, or itchy skin on or around the nipple.
- Any kind of discharge from the nipple (including blood, but obviously not including milk if you are lactating).
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, head to your doctor to get checked out as soon as possible.
When To See A Doctor About Breast Concerns
Don’t wait for a sign or symptom of breast cancer to occur to worry and then head to your doctor. Instead, check your breasts regularly, which means performing a monthly self-exam on your breasts, not just touching them every time you shower, although that’s cool too!
Then, if you notice anything unusual the next time you perform a self-exam on your breasts or you feel like something isn’t quite right one day, you’re able to head to your doctor immediately and have them look into it further.
Although there’s definitely less of a stigma surrounding breast cancer now, there is still a lot of fear associated with it - the big “C” is terrifying, there’s no doubt about it. However, that’s not a reason to put off going to your doctor if you have any concerns. In fact, it’s actually more of a reason to go: once you go and get checked out, you’ll likely have peace of mind or be able to move forward in the most efficient way possible.
So, the bottom line is: go to see your doctor whenever you have any kind of concerns about your breasts, no matter how insignificant you believe they might be.
Boobs are wonderful, but like anything that’s great, we need to take care of them! Making sure that you check your boobs on a regular basis isn’t just a good thing to do, it’s essential to ensure you’re keeping on top of your health and gaining a deeper understanding of what’s normal for your body.
So, get that recurring monthly memo popped into your phone and start getting more in touch with your boobs!