Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, mainly affecting older women but younger women and sometimes men can be at risk. It’s important for women to regularly check their breasts and be aware of any changes so any potential problems can be dealt with as early as possible. Successful recovery is much more likely if breast cancer is caught and treated early.
How can I check myself for breast cancer?
Every woman’s breasts are different, and there’s no single right or wrong method of checking them. The important thing is to get used to how your breasts normally look and feel, including how they normally change at different times.
Look at your breasts in the mirror to spot any changes, both with your arms up and by your side. You should also check them by feel, including around the armpits and up to your collarbone. It’s a good habit to do this when you’re in the shower, and it can be easier to check and feel when your hands are soapy.
Just remember that it’s possible to feel lumps in your breast for all sorts of reasons, and it doesn’t always mean cancer. Many women experience tenderness and lumpiness a various times during their menstrual cycle, especially close to their period. It’s important to be familiar with these natural changes so you can spot anything that’s out of the ordinary.
What to look for when checking your breasts
While these symptoms could mean breast cancer, there are many other reasons for lumps or changes in your breasts, and most aren’t due to cancer. However, you should always be vigilant and speak to your doctor if you’re not sure about something new or unusual.
Finding a lump – any new lump or bumpy area, particularly if it’s only in one breast
Changes in size – such as the general size or a change in shape
Changes in skin texture – a difference in the look or feel of your skin
Nipple discharge or a rash – bloody or non-milky discharge
Change in nipple shape – such as pointing differently
Discomfort or pain – a new and lingering pain
When should I see my GP?
There’s a very low chance that any unusual changes you notice in your breasts turn out to be cancer, but it’s always best to check with your GP. If you find something out of the ordinary, you should see your doctor as soon as possible to determine whether or not it’s something serious, so any treatment can be planned quickly.
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