How To Check Yourself For Breast Cancer At Home
Lumps, dimpling and more: What to look for during a breast self-exam, plus how often you should check.
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women. Knowing how to check yourself for it can aid in early detection.
About one in eight women in the US will develop breast cancer during her lifetime and aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. Although death rates from breast cancer have thankfully declined over the last several years, it’s still important to check yourself for breast cancer.
Because even in a world with high-tech doctor’s offices and plenty of ways to talk to a doctor online, taking care of yourself starts with you. By setting aside just five minutes every month to do a self exam, you can increase the likelihood of early detection if you do have cancer. The earlier you detect cancer, the earlier a doctor can treat it. And when it comes to breast cancer, early treatment is the key to a good prognosis.
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Is There A Particular Time Of The Month I Should Do Breast Self
Women should do a breast self-exam once a month, every month. Women who are still menstruating should perform a breast self-exam after their period. Women who have stopped menstruating and those who have very irregular periods can pick a day each month. Choose a day that is consistent and easy to remember, like the first day of the month, the last day of the month or your favorite number.
How To Perform A Breast Cancer Self
1. Simply look at your breasts in the mirror. Look from different angles, with your arms down and then raised.
What you should see:
- Breasts that are smooth and don’t show any visible signs of distortion
- The usual size, shape and color of your breasts
Signs to look out for:
- Changes in skin texture, such as dimpling, puckering or bulging
- Changes in the position of either nipple
- Any redness, splotches or other signs of a rash
- Abnormal swelling
- Any signs of fluid coming from either nipple
2. Feel your breasts while lying down, and then again while standing up. Using the pads of your first two or three fingers, make circular motions about the size of a quarter along the entire surface of your breasts and near your armpit. Use light, medium and firm pressure to feel the different layers of tissue.
What you should feel:
- The usual consistency of your breasts
- Whatever is “normal” in the different regions of your breasts
Signs to look out for:
- Lumps or hard masses in your breast tissue
- Thickening or fullness that feels different than the surrounding tissue
- Unusual warmth
- A nipple that has become inverted
Self-breast exams aren’t a surefire way to detect breast cancer — only medical testing, such as mammograms, can do that — but they can help you become more familiar with your breasts and, as such, more aware of any changes.
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Breast Changes To Look Out For
See a GP if you notice any of the following changes:
- a change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
- a change in the look or feel of the skin on your breast, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness
- a new lump, swelling, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that was not there before
What Should I Look For
You know your body best. If you notice anything thats unusual for you, or wont go away, make an appointment to speak to your doctor.
Its not possible to know all the different signs and symptoms of cancer, and its not your job to know whats wrong. So the best thing you can do is to tell your doctor if you notice anything thats not normal for you. In most cases it wont be cancer but if it is, spotting it early can make a real difference.
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What Should My Breasts Feel Like
Before you start thinking about signs and symptoms of breast cancer, its important to get to know your own breasts and how they usually look and feel. That way, you can spot any changes and report them to your GP quickly.
Every womans breasts are different in size, shape and consistency, and the NHS states that its normal for one breast to be larger than the other.
It also says you might find your breasts feel different at different times of the month due to your menstrual cycle. Similarly, after menopause, some womens breasts can feel softer and less firm.
Can I Rely On Breast Self
Mammography can detect tumors before they can be felt, so screening is key for early detection. But when combined with regular medical care and appropriate guideline-recommended mammography, breast self-exams can help women know what is normal for them so they can report any changes to their healthcare provider.If you find a lump, schedule an appointment with your doctor, but dont panic 8 out of 10 lumps are not cancerous. For additional peace of mind, call your doctor whenever you have concerns.
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Physical Exam While Lying Down
A lying down exam allows the breast tissue to spread out evenly along the chest wall. In this position, a person can check the whole of both breasts and the wider chest area.
To check the breast while lying down, follow these steps :
When Should Bse Be Done
Women can begin practicing breast self-examination at about age 20 and continue the practice throughout their lives ? even during pregnancy and after menopause.
Breast self-examination can be performed every month. Become familiar with how your breasts usually look and feel so that you may notice any change from what is normal for you:
If you still menstruate, the best time to do BSE is when your breasts are least likely to be tender or swollen, such as a few days after your period ends.
If you no longer menstruate, pick a certain day ? such as the first day of each month ? to remind yourself to do BSE.
If you are taking hormones, talk with your doctor about when to do BSE.
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Symptoms That Are Difficult To See Or Touch
Some common cancer symptoms are easy to see. But others can happen inside your body or be a change to how your body works. These changes can be more difficult to spot or describe. But being aware of how you usually feel can help you notice when somethings different.
It might be a cough that lasts for a few weeks, a change in your poo, heartburn that keeps coming back or any other change that isnt normal for you. But whatever the symptom is, when something doesnt feel quite right dont ignore it. Take charge and speak to your doctor.
And its important not to put any unusual changes, aches or pains down to just getting older or assume something is part of another health condition. If its not normal for you, get it checked out.
How To Participate
If you have received an invitation, now is the time to tick breast screening off your list and make an appointment. A mammogram every 2 years is the best way to detect breast cancer early and improve survival.
To make an appointment at one of more than 600 BreastScreen Australia clinics nationwide, phone 13 20 50 at a cost of a local phone call.
If you are feeling unwell or can no longer attend your appointment, make sure you reschedule.
Further information about BreastScreen Australia can be found in the BreastScreen and You brochure.
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How Do I Self
Lots of people talk about doing self-checks , to try and spot cancer early.
Its good to be aware of what your body is normally like, so its easier to notice if anything changes. But theres no good evidence to suggest that regularly self-checking any part of your body in a set time or set way is helpful. It can actually do more harm than good, by picking up things which wouldnt have gone on to cause you problems.
Self-checking is different to cancer screening read more about screening for cancer.
How To Do A Breast Self
According to John Hopkins Medicine, forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.
This Breast Cancer Awareness month, learn how to do breast self-exams. Get familiar with your body, establish a baseline and feel what is normal. This will help you to notice changes early and better update your healthcare provider. If you do notice a lump or unusual appearance, schedule an appointment, but dont let it make you anxious. Eighty percent of lumps detected are not cancerous.
Perform your self-exam at the same time each month. Hormones fluctuate during the month with your menstrual cycle. This will cause natural changes in how your breast tissue feels. Examining yourself at the same time each month will make it easier to distinguish natural hormonal changes from abnormalities.
Stand before a mirror, with shoulders straight, and arms on your hips. Look in the mirror at your breasts to see if any of the following is present:
- visible lumps or dimpling of the skin
- Unusual shape, size, or color
- swelling, redness, rash, or soreness
- the nipple has changed position or became pushed inward instead of protruding
Then, raise your arms, and look for the same changes. Use this opportunity to check for any watery, milky, or yellow fluid coming out from one or both nipples.
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How Do You Perform A Breast Self
Performing a self-exam can help you understand what is normal for you so you can more easily detect when something is out of the ordinary. To perform a breast self-exam, follow these steps:
Step 1: Observe
The first part is visual examination, or to simply observe. Stand shirtless in front of the mirror and check the breast for dimpling, puckering, discoloration, and any other symptoms or noticeable changes. Inspect your breasts while you are standing straight, with arms raised above your head, and afterward, with your hands on your hips. Turn from side to side and bend forward in each position to check thoroughly.
Step 2: Feel for lumps with your three middle fingers
After observation, feel for changes using the finger pads of the three middle fingers. Use the opposite hand from the breast you are examining this means feeling the right breast with your left hand, and vice versa. Check for lumps and thickening in each breast, including the area below the collarbone and under the armpit.
Step 3: Feel for lumps with an up-and-down motion
Then, support a breast with one hand and use the other hand to feel for any lumps using an up-and-down motion. Cover the entire breast area.
Step 4: Repeat up-and-down motion for both breasts
Repeat the process for the other breast.
Step 5: Lie down and feel for lumps with circular or up-and-down motions
“Having larger breasts may make it take longer to examine the breast, but the techniques and concept are the same,” says Abe.
Should I Check My Testicles
Its a good idea to know what your testicles usually look and feel like, and to be aware of their normal size and weight. This can make it easier to spot unusual changes, which you should always let your doctor know about.
But theres no need to worry about regularly self-checking at a set time or in a set way. There is no specific self-checking method that has overall proven benefits.
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What Should I Be Looking For
Aside from finding a noticeable lump, breast cancer can have a number of different symptoms.
The NHS suggests seeing your GP if you notice any of the following changes:
- a change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
- a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling
- a new lump, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that is different from the same area on the other side
- nipple discharge that’s not milky
- bleeding from your nipple
- a moist, red area on your nipple that doesn’t heal easily
- any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
- a rash on or around your nipple
- any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it’s a new pain and doesn’t go away
Do Yourself A Favour And Learn How To Check Your Breasts
A third of women dont check their breasts regularly for signs and symptoms of breast cancer, a poll has suggested. Women say this is because they dont know how to do it or because they are scared of finding something.
But checking your breasts regularly breast awareness is vital to women of any age because if you find a change that turns out to be cancer, the sooner its diagnosed the more effective the treatment is likely to be.
Remember, most breast changes wont turn out to be breast cancer.
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Symptoms To Look Out For
Some people with breast cancer experience no symptoms. In some cases, however, changes may start to occur from an early stage. People should speak with a doctor about their screening plan if they have any concerns.
It is also worth noting that not all breast lumps are breast cancer, and not every case of breast cancer involves a lump. For these reasons, people should attend regular screening as a doctor recommends.
Breast cancer can cause changes in the lymph nodes in the early stages.
To check the lymph nodes, look for:
- a lump, swelling, or thickening around the underarm
- a lump or swelling in the collarbone area
- a thickening of the skin in the armpit
Lymph node involvement can also result in a rash on the breast in people with inflammatory breast cancer.
A person should contact a doctor about these or any other unexplained changes, especially if they only seem to affect one breast.
What Is A Breast Self
BSE is when a woman physically and visually examines herself for any changes in her breasts and underarm areas. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has found evidence that suggests BSEs do not lower the risk for death from breast cancer. Therefore, if you choose to do BSE, it should not be used in place of, but in addition to, clinical breast examination and mammography.
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What To Do If You Find A Lump
Dont panic if you think you feel a lump in your breast. Most women have some lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts all the time, and most breast lumps turn out to be benign . There are a number of possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps, including normal hormonal changes, a benign breast condition, or an injury.
Dont hesitate to call your doctor if youve noticed a lump or other breast change that is new and worrisome. This is especially true for changes that last more than one full menstrual cycle or seem to get bigger or more prominent in some way. If you menstruate, you may want to wait until after your period to see if the lump or other breast change disappears on its own before calling your doctor. The best healthcare provider to call would be one who knows you and has done a breast exam on you before for example, your gynecologist, primary care doctor, or a nurse practitioner who works with your gynecologist or primary care doctor.
Make sure you get answers. Its important that your doctor gives you an explanation of the cause of the lump or other breast change and, if necessary, a plan for monitoring it or treating it. If youre not comfortable with the advice of the first doctor you see, dont hesitate to get a second opinion.
Physical Exam While Standing Up
People often do a standing exam in the shower because the skin is easier to examine when slippery.
Use the following steps to perform a standing check:
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What If You Find A Lump
One of the most frightening moments for a woman is if she sees or feels something different or unusual while performing breast self-examination. One of the most important reasons to do regular breast self-examination is so that you know what is normal for your breasts. If you find a lump, it is important not to panic.
If you discover lumpiness in one breast or feel something different in the tissue, or you feel a definite lump, there may be valid reason for concern and it is important to contact a doctor. Sometimes, the lumpiness may be due to menstrual changes but, if you have nipple discharge that is bloody or skin changes, such as dimpling or puckering, your doctor may want to see you right away.
It is natural to be frightened when discovering a lump, but do not let the prospect of cancer keep you from taking action. Remember that most breast lumps are benign .