It is extremely important for everyone to check their breasts regularly, including men. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Mr Ross and his team would like to ensure that you know what you are looking for during your self-examination.
Do you examine your breasts?
It is essential to be familiar with your breasts, whether you have implants or not, so that you can easily notice if something looks or feels out of the ordinary.
Woman who have implants will normally be shown how to differentiate between their scar tissue and breast implant while still being thorough when performing a breast self-examination. Your surgeon or clinic nurse will show you how to identify the edges of the implants.
Do not examine your breasts for up to 6 weeks after implant surgery or during menstruation, as they can be tender or swollen. However, performing a breast examination in the week after your menstrual period is ideal for women who are on a monthly cycle.
The earlier breast cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat and the more likely the treatment is to be successful. It is important that you go to your GP as soon as possible if you notice any worrying symptoms. Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.
So just how easy is it to carry out a breast self-examination?
There are a number of ways to feel for lumps, you can lie down, sit down or stand up, it’s completely down to personal preference.
Lie down flat or stand up straight and put your right arm above your head. Use your left hand to examine your breast. With your 3 middle fingers flat, move gently over the whole breast, checking for any lumps or thickening tissue. Use different levels of pressure but do not press to hard or squeeze. Once you have checked the whole breast from your collarbone down to your rib cage, switch arms and repeat on the other breast. Next, raise one arm at a time and check in your armpit the same way you did your breast with 3 fingers flat, moving in circular motions, checking for lumps.
So what are you looking out for?
Stand up straight in front of a mirror looking at your breasts, with your hands on your hips. Look for lumps, new differences in size and shape, and skin or nipple changes.
Squeeze the nipple of each breast gently using your thumb and index finger, this is to check for discharge or fluid leaving the nipple.
The first symptom of breast cancer for many women is a lump in their breast, but many women have breast lumps and 9 out of 10 are benign, which means they are not cancerous.
Most benign breast lumps are:
- Areas of normal lumpiness that is more obvious just before a period
- Cysts – sacs of fluid in the breast tissue, which are quite common
- Fibroadenoma – a collection of fibrous glandular tissue (these are common in younger women, for example under 30)
It is important if you find a lump to make an appointment with the GP for them to examine you.
Early detection is vital
Early detection is vital to ensure you get the best treatment quickly, so performing a breast self-examination is the ideal symptom checker. The next stage is seeing your GP to have a clinical examination, after this you may or may not be offered a mammogram depending on the clinician’s opinion. It is important, however, that you continue with examinations at home as 1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Men should also be performing self-examinations, even though the statistics for men developing breast cancer is much lower than women, it is extremely important to learn about identifying symptoms.