Hi everyone! It’s breast cancer awareness month, and in this, the second post in my awareness month series, I will be talking about self-diagnosis.
This is potentially life-saving information, so listen up. The first step before we even start talking about self-examination is being aware.
Most of the changes in the picture above are noticeable by just standing in front of a mirror topless (and be honest with me, ladies, this is going to happen sometime in the next month anyway), and some don’t even need that. The key thing is to be aware that if you experience any of these things it may be worth looking into, and the philosophy of ‘it’s probably nothing’ will do more damage than good.
(NOW, I am not saying that if you wake up one morning and your boob is a bit achy then you should rush to the doctors. I know how some of you can be. Pay attention when the caption says ‘Constant pain’, but if you really do experience what it says, let your gut feeling reign. It’s so, SO much better to be safe than sorry.)
‘What should I do if I find a change?
Most breast changes are likely to be normal or due to a benign (not cancer) breast condition rather than being a sign of breast cancer. If you notice a change, go and see your GP (local doctor) as soon as you can.
If you don’t feel comfortable going to see a male GP you can ask if there is a female doctor available. When your GP examines your breasts they may feel that there is no need for further investigation, or they may refer you to a breast clinic.
For more information about what happens at a breast clinic and the tests you may have, see our relevant webpage or our Your breast clinic appointment booklet.
Some people think that if they have breast cancer they will have other symptoms alongside a breast change, such as feeling tired, having less energy or weight loss, but this is not the case. If you do notice a change it’s important to visit your GP.’ Breast Cancer Care
Now on to SELF-EXAMINATION.
Adult women of all ages (and states of pregnancy) are encouraged to perform breast self-exams at least once a month. Johns Hopkins Medical center states,
“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”
Mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, but breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes, for example those in the picture above.
‘Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue.
Use 3 different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. It is normal to feel a firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast, but you should tell your doctor if you feel anything else out of the ordinary. If you’re not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse. Use each pressure level to feel the breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.
Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone (sternum or breastbone). Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).
There is some evidence to suggest that the up-and-down pattern (sometimes called the vertical pattern) is the most effective pattern for covering the entire breast without missing any breast tissue.
Repeat the exam on your left breast, putting your left arm behind your head and using the finger pads of your right hand to do the exam.
While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, or dimpling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin. (The pressing down on the hips position contracts the chest wall muscles and enhances any breast changes.)
Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it harder to examine.
This procedure for doing breast self-exam is different from previous recommendations. These changes represent an extensive review of the medical literature and input from an expert advisory group. There is evidence that this position (lying down), the area felt, pattern of coverage of the breast, and use of different amounts of pressure increase a woman’s ability to find abnormal areas.’ cancer.org
There are many different methods of self-examination. The one I have chosen is the most specific, detailed and evidentially supported method I can find, but if you want to be more informed on the subject you can easily look up different ways and you will be provided with a flurry of options.
You can perform a breast self-examination in many different ways. Lying down was recommended as the most effective way to arrange yourself, by the site and method mentioned above. However different women prefer doing it in different ways and each has it’s own benefits, so if you really aren’t comfortable lying down other options include in front of a mirror (therefore allowing you to visually inspect your breasts) and in the shower, as many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery.
Essentially, follow this breast-list (that was the most terrible fail of a pun I have ever come up with. You can’t even tell it’s a pun can you)
And remember it’s breast cancer awareness month, so check out my last post for all the ways you can get involved this October.
Thank you so much for reading :)
P.S. You may have noticed sashahope.com has gone pink! This was originally in recognition of awareness month, but I like it so much I might just keep it. What do you think?