The key to making a speedy recovery from breast cancer, is to have the disease detected as early as possible. And the best way to ensure this is the case is to really get to know your breasts, check yourself regularly and go to see your GP straight away if you find anything unusual. Early diagnosis can save your breast. It could also save your life.
How to check
- Start by putting both hands above your head. Look at your breasts. Is there any change to the normal shape? Look all around the breasts, right up to the collar bone and round to the sides under your armpit.
- Feel your breasts. Using flat fingers, roll your hand over each breast. Work your way all around in small circles until you have checked the whole breast, above, below and each side of the nipple.
- Finally, gently squeeze each nipple to check for discharge.
Women aged between 50 and 70 will be sent an appointment for a breast scan, or mammogram, every three years. Breast cancer can occur in women (and occasionally men) of any age and can appear in between screening appointments. So it’s important that all women learn how to detect changes in their breast and what they might mean.
An important thing for us to point out here, is that if you do find something out of the ordinary, it doesn’t automatically mean cancer. In fact, in most cases, it won’t be. But just in case, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP who can set your mind at ease, or refer you for tests.
Get in the habit
The important thing here is to get used to what is “normal” to you. No two breasts are the same, so you are the person most likely to notice changes in your own.
Things to look out for
- a lump or area that feels different from normal in your breast, armpit or collarbone
- a sudden change in size or shape
- inverted nipple
- a change in skin tone
- liquid from one or both nipples (if you are not pregnant or breastfeeding)
- constant pain in your breast or armpit
It is often perfectly normal for breasts to feel lumpy around the time of your period or if you are breastfeeding. Ideally, check yourself at the same time of each month, about a week after your period.
Remember, try not to panic if you recognise any of these symptoms in your own breasts. Nine out of ten lumps referred to a specialist will turn out to be nothing to worry about. But they are always worth getting checked out.