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Health Wise: Breast awareness and self-examination

To keep on top of your health and wellbeing, it’s important to know your body so that you can spot when things change.

When it comes to women’s health, regularly checking your breasts can help in the early detection of breast cancer.

Here’s our simple guide to examining your breasts.

How should I check my breasts?

There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts.

However, you check them, it’s most important to be breast aware.

This means knowing how your breasts usually look and feel. To do this, it’s important to check them regularly, at least once a month.

The NHS Breast Screening Programme has produced a 5-point plan for being breast aware. This includes:

  • knowing what's normal for you
  • looking at your breasts and feeling them
  • knowing what changes to look for
  • reporting any changes without delay
  • attending routine screening if you're 50 or over

3 simple steps to examining your breasts

It’s helpful to have a routine when examining your breasts. Here are 3 simple steps to self-examination.

Step 1: Look in the mirror

Put your shoulders straight with your hands on your hips and look at your breasts in the mirror.

Now raise your arms above your head and look again.

What you’re looking for:

  • The normal size, shape and colour that you’re used to
  • Any distortions or swellings
  • The position of the nipple
  • Redness or swelling
  • Any signs of fluid coming from the nipples

Step 2: Feel your breasts while standing or sitting

Use your right hand to feel your left breast and your left hand to feel your right breast.

Using the pads of your three middle fingers, feel both breasts with light, medium and firm pressure. Some women prefer to do this in a circular motion, while others move up and down, almost like mowing a lawn. Use whichever is best for you.

Cover the whole breast, from the collarbone to the top of your abdomen and from armpit to cleavage.

It can help to do this in the shower because your skin will be slippery.

What you’re looking for:

  • A new lump or bump in the breast or armpit
  • A thickening in the tissue of the breast
  • Any differences between the breasts that you haven’t been aware of (it’s normal for your breasts to be slightly different)
  • Any pain or discomfort when you are putting pressure on your breasts

Step 3: Feel your breasts while lying down

Lie on the bed and place a pillow under your shoulder.

Use the same hand movements as described in Step 2, examining your left breast with your right hand and your right breast with your left hand, swapping the pillow when you swap sides.

What you’re looking for:

  • A new lump or bump in the breast or armpit
  • A thickening in the tissue of the breast
  • Any differences between the breasts that you haven’t been aware of (it’s normal for your breasts to be slightly different)
  • Any pain or discomfort when you are putting pressure on your breasts

What should I do if I find a lump in my breast?

If you can feel a lump or something out of the ordinary when checking your breasts, don’t panic.

Most women have lumps and bumps in their breasts. 9 out of 10 breast lumps will turn out to be benign (not cancer).

If you notice a new bump that seems to be getting bigger, contact your GP as soon as possible.

About 1 in 8 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. If it's detected early, treatment is more successful and there's a good chance of recovery. That’s why it’s so important that women check their breasts regularly and know what to look for.

Help and support about breast awareness

You can find advice about breast awareness and the early detection of breast cancer from:

If you’d like to find out how our occupational health services help businesses support their female employees, contact the team at Fusion today.

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Categories: Health & WellbeingHealth WiseOccupational Health

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