Breast Cancer Awareness: Self Breast Examinations

Breast Cancer Awareness month is coming up quickly and I am sure that many of you will be partaking in fundraising activities, such as coffee mornings or walks. However, education about how to catch signs of cancer early is also an integral part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Often with medical treatments, knowledge is power. Therefore, it is important to inform yourself of the preventative measures you can be taking at home and medical advice about breast cancer. If looking through extremely scientific (and often quite daunting) information about breast cancer is making you feel uncomfortable, here are some answers to your possible queries about checking your breasts. 

Why should I do a self breast examination?

Catching breast cancer in its early stages makes it much easier to treat and gives you a higher chance of survival. If it is spotted early, the patient may be able to avoid having a mastectomy or chemotherapy. Breast cancer does not discriminate, which makes it incredibly important that everyone does regular checks of their breasts. 

When is it best to check my breasts? 

It is best to check your breasts around two to three days after your period has ended. If you do not have periods, it is best to get used to the feel of your breasts and check them at least once a month around the same time. Self-examining your breasts every month is incredibly important, as it allows you to get used to the look and feel of your breasts. Whether your family has a history of breast cancer or not, everyone should be doing an examination every month.

How do I check my breasts?

Firstly, it is important to have an in-depth knowledge of what your own breasts look like. Obviously, everyone’s breasts are going to look different so you need to get used to what is normal for you. Starting by looking at yourself in a mirror is the best way to check for any abnormalities. After this, you should thoroughly feel your breasts for any lumps. Linked is a video detailing things to look out for and the best way to check for lumps in your breasts. Breast Cancer Now uses the handy acronym of TLC (touch, look, check) to help remind you of the important steps of a self examination. 

When should I see a GP?

If there is anything unusual or different about your breasts or you notice a lump whilst doing your monthly check, you must contact your GP. Breast Cancer Now has a list of changes that you should check for when doing a self-examination. Most of the time, changes in your breasts, including the appearance of lumps, are completely harmless. However, it is still essential that you get your breasts checked by a professional in case it is something more serious. 

I’ve been referred to a breast clinic, should I start to panic?

Please do NOT panic if your GP has referred you to a breast clinic. This is not a sure sign that you do have breast cancer. Doctors often want to do more checks using specialised equipment to be 100% sure that a patient doesn’t have cancer. If your family does have a history of breast cancer, it is most likely that you will be referred to a breast clinic every time that you notice lumps in that area, even if your GP believes that you do not have cancer.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of answers to the infinite amount of questions surrounding breast cancer and I am not a medical professional. However, I hope that this information has started to give you a better understanding of why you should perform self breast examinations and how to do so. 

For more information surrounding breast cancer, you can check out some of the organisations linked below:

Image courtesy of Angiola Harry.

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