As part of breast cancer awareness month this October, we feel it’s important to remind you how to check your breasts for any signs of cancer.
This isn’t just exclusively for women – men should be checking their chest area as well!
The best way to make sure you detect any signs as early as possible is to get to know your breasts/ chest area by checking them regularly so you notice any changes.
It doesn’t take long, and if you know how, you can easily make it part of your routine.
What are you looking for?
You are looking and feeling for any changes in your breasts. This could be a lump, a change in the skin on your breasts or anything that doesn’t feel or look right to you (see a list of symptoms from the NHS website below).
change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
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
a discharge of fluid from either of your nipples
any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
a rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple
any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it's a new pain and does not go away (although pain is only a symptom of breast cancer in rare cases)
How to check your breasts in 2 minutes
Check your breasts at least once a month (if you have periods, do this ideally a few days after your cycle has ended). There’s no right or wrong way to check your breasts but here’s an easy step by step guide to help you make sure you’re doing it thoroughly:
1. Remove any clothes on your top half and face a mirror.
2. Put your hands on your hips and check for any visual changes (turn from side to side).
3. Do the same with your hands above your head.
4. Put your left hand on your hip and use your right hand to examine your left breast.
5. Imagine your breast is divided into 4 parts. Use the flat of your hand and middle 3 fingers to gently tap/ press each part, working your way around each part of the breast.
6. Don’t forget to do over and around the nipple. Make sure you do above the breast in the collar bone area as well.
7. Feel the side of your breast and armpit, reaching right into it (this is where most cancer is found so it’s important not to miss it).
Although cancer is more common in older women, it’s important to check your breasts, whatever age you are.
Also, make sure you always attend your routine breast screenings, which are offered on the NHS if you’re aged 50-70.
What to do if you find something
Try not to panic! Many lumps are not cancerous, but it’s important to get it checked out by your GP, just in case. Make an appointment as soon as possible if you find anything that isn’t normal for you or notice any symptoms at all.