Examine your breasts
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump in your breast. This is not necessarily a sign of cancer. It may well turn out to be benign, but you should always get any change in your breast checked.
Self-examine your breasts
A large number of breast cancers are diagnosed based on changes women themselves detect in their breasts, so it is good to know your own breasts. Learn to familiarise yourself with your breasts by feeling and looking at them. If you come across any changes that you feel worried about, arrange to see your doctor.
If you are between the ages of 50 and 69, you’ll receive an invitation for screening mammography every two years. It’s worthwhile taking part in such screening, as it can already detect asymptomatic cancer.
Look at your breasts and check their
- skin colour
- colour and shape of your nipples
Stand in front of a mirror with your upper body bare. Look at your breasts, first with your arms raised and then with them lowered. Check how your breasts appear from the front, from below and from the sides. See if there’s any secretion from your nipples when you squeeze them.
Feel your breasts
Palpating your mammary glands is best done lying down, but you can also do it standing in the shower, when your skin is slippery with soap.
Press all of each breast in a circular motion with your fingers straightened and together and. Check your armpits too.
Palpate each breast from three positions: with your hand pointing upwards, sideways, and downwards in line with your body.
Changes that require further tests
- lump in your breast or armpit
- change in the shape of your breast
- dimpling of the skin
- rash or broken skin on the areola
- retracted nipple or secretion from the nipple
- redness or swelling of the breast
If you detect a change that worries you, arrange to see a doctor
There can be a variety of changes within your breasts that are benign. They include cysts, nodules of connective tissue, or the unevenness of glandular tissue. It is good to have all new changes checked.
The sort of changes apparent from a lump in the breast or breast imaging are ascertained using the so-called triple assessment: a doctor palpates the breast, a mammogram or ultrasound image is taken of the breast, and if necessary a biopsy is taken.
Mammography detects some 40 per cent of all cases of breast cancer, most often before there are any symptoms. Taking part in breast cancer screening is always worthwhile, as it significantly reduces the risk of dying from breast cancer.