In Australia, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime and 7 women die every single day from Breast Cancer (source). Early detection of Breast Cancer, especially while it is still confined to the breast provides the best chance of survival. In conjunction with regular mammograms and examinations by your Doctor, performing monthly self examinations of your breasts is another way to help detect any early changes to your breasts and have them checked by a Doctor and treated quickly. Some of the signs to look for when checking your breasts include:
- A new lump in your breast or underarm
- Irritation or dimpling of skin around your breast
- Swelling or thickening of part of your breast
- Nipple discharge that is not breast milk
- Any pain or pulling in of your nipple
- Pain in any area of your breast
- Any change to the size or shape of your breast.
It’s recommended that women use the following 3 steps when checking their breasts each month.
Step 1. The Shower Check
While in the shower, place your left hand behind your head and use the fingers on your right hand to make small circular movements to check your left breast for anything unusual or different. Begin by checking quite lightly before pushing deeper to check deeper into your breast. Switch sides to check your right breast and make sure you also check above your breast up to your collarbone and out to your armpit.
Step 2. The Bathroom Mirror
After you’ve had a shower, stand in front of the mirror and place you gads by your sides. Look in the mirror and check for anything which may be different about your breasts, their size, shape, colour, areas where the skin my be dimpled or pulled tight. Place your hands on your hips and push your shoulders forward to flex your chest muscles and look for any changes.
Step 3. Check Lying Down
Start by lying down on your left side with your knees bent and roll your shoulders back so they are flat on the bed and place your right arm under your head – this should make your breasts as flat as possible. Check your right breast using the same techniques as you did in the shower. Once you have checked your right breast, switch to the opposite position to check your left breast.
Image from: Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation
The Sydney Breast Cancer Foundation has developed a card you can hang and display in your shower to help remind you and help you to regularly check your breasts.
If you have any concerns about changes in your breasts or would like further information on how to complete a self breast examination, please contact your healthcare provider.