Being aware of your breasts is an important aspect for women to care for their bodies. Familiarity with their breasts means women will be aware of normal changes. More importantly they will notice anything unusual. Regular self-examination helps ensure any changes are noticed early.
Basis of breast awareness
- Knowing what is normal and abnormal
- Noticing any changes in the look or feel
- Self-examining yourself
- Contacting your GP if any changes are noticed
- Attending for routine breast screening if aged 40 or over
What to look for
- Any change in direction of a nipple, turning inwards or at an unusual angle
- Bleeding or weeping
- Changes in the dark skin surrounding the nipple (areola) – puckering or swelling
- Most lumps are harmless, but new ones or old ones which increase in size should be checked by your doctor
- A sudden change in size or shape of thick tissue often found in the upper and underneath areas of heavy breasts
- Bulge on the surface of the breast
- ‘Orange peel’ skin, unusually enlarged pores anywhere on the breast
- Swelling of the upper arm, in the armpit, or just above the breast
When to check your breast
You should check your breasts once a month, during the week following your period. If you pregnant or have been through menopause, examine your breasts on the first day of the month.
How to check your breast
In-front of a mirror
This can be done by following the 4 steps below.
Hands by your sides
Look at your breasts with your arms at your sides while slowly rotating your upper body from side to side.
Hands on your head
Next, put your hands on your head and look for dimples or bulges in your breasts, particularly underneath. Dimples which are equal in size, shape and occur in both breasts are normally harmless.
Hands over your head
Then raise your arms high above your head and look again for any changes, especially in the nipple area.
Hands on your hips
Finally rest your palms on your hips and press down firmly while holding the shoulders back so that your chest muscles are flexed. Check for any changes in appearance.
In the shower or bath
Your fingers slide easier over wet skin. With the flat part of your hand, move gently over each breast in a circular motion and then check for any lump, hard knot or thickening.
Fold a towel or put a pillow under your right shoulder and place your right arm behind your head. With the flat part of your left hand, press gently in small circular motions around an imaginary clock face. Start at the top of the breast for 12 o’clock and move in a clockwise circle until you return to 12 again. Then move in one inch and repeat. Keep doing this until you reach the nipple. This procedure should take at least four circles in total. Repeat this process with the pillow under your left shoulder and your left arm behind your head. Finally, gently pinch each nipple between thumb and index finger. If there is any secretion, particularly if it comes from a single pore, then you should get checked by your GP.