Being Breast Aware
Every woman should have an awareness of the feel and shape of her breasts. It's an important part of caring for your body. It means knowing how your breasts look and feel normally, so you notice any changes that might be unusual for you.
Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts from time to time. There is no set way to do this. You can decide what you're comfortable with and when it's convenient for you. If your not sure how to do this, go and ask your local GP for advice.
What To Look For
- A change in size - one breast may become noticeably larger or lower.
- A nipple that has become inverted (pulled in) or changed its position or shape.
- A rash on or around the nipple or a discharge from one or both nipples.
- Puckering or dimpling of the skin.
- A swelling under your armpit or around your collarbone (where the lymph nodes are).
- A lump or thickening in your breast that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue.
- Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit.
What To Do If You Find Change
See your GP as soon as possible. Don't worry that you may be making an unnecessary fuss and remember most breast changes aren't cancer, even if they do need treatment or a follow-up.
When your GP examines your breasts he or she may be able to reassure you that there's nothing to worry about. If the change may be connected with your hormones, your GP may ask you to come back at a different time in your menstrual cycle. Alternatively, he or she may decide to send you to a breast clinic for a more detailed examination.
Breast Cancer Care has more information about what happens at a breast clinic and the tests used to make a diagnosis.
How Should A Breast Look & Feel?
There is no such thing as a standard breast and what is normal for one woman may not be for another. One woman's breasts will also look and feel different over time depending on the time of the month and the age of the woman.
Routine Self Examination
The Department of Health's policy on breast awareness, which has strong support from the nursing and medical professions, encourages women to check their breasts for what is normal for them but does not recommend routine self examination to a set technique.
The 5 Point Code
The Department of Health recommends that instead of examining your breasts every month for abnormalities, you follow this five-point code, which is much more effective at detecting changes and abnormalities.
- Know what is normal for you.
- Look and feel.
- Know what changes to look for.
- Report any changes without delay.
- Attend for breast screening if aged 50 or over.