Worldwide, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer after lung cancer and the fifth most common cause of cancer death. While speedy diagnosis and better treatment have led to a fall in mortality rates, being breast aware is essential to enhance your chances of survival.
How to do a breast examination
From the age of 20, women should check their breasts monthly. Checking your breasts for lumps or other changes is called breast self-exam. Women should do it 5 to 10 days after the first day of their cycle, or those who have passed menopause should do it on the same day each month.
There is no set way to check your breasts, but you should find time to do it on a regular basis and remain breast aware throughout your life, as well as undergoing a screening once you are eligible. Being breast aware means familiarizing yourself with your breasts and the changes they go through during your life. You should know how your breasts look and feel normally so that you can pick up any changes quickly.
With a self-exam, it is important to feel all around your breasts, including underneath, at the top, around by the collar bone, and under your arms. If you do notice a change in your breasts, try not to worry, but see your GP as soon as you can. Breast cancer can present in many ways, but it is important to remember that many changes can also be caused by benign (non-cancerous) conditions or normal changes within the breast.
What You Should be Looking Out For
• Pain in part of the breast or armpit that is unrelated to periods
• Lump in the breast or armpit
• Lumpy area or unusual thickening of tissue that doesn’t go after your period
• Size – if one breast becomes larger or lower than the other
• Discharge from one or both nipples
• Rash or crusting of the nipple or surrounding area
• Skin texture – puckering or dimpling
• Swelling under the armpit or around the collarbone