A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Breast Cancer Now charity brought the alarming news that a mere 48% of British women regularly check their breasts for signs of cancer at least once a month – and almost one in ten had never checked their breasts at all. That means that an estimated 10.5 million women in Britain are putting their health at risk.
According to the survey, which was released last month, most of the women surveyed were aware that a lump was a possible signifier, but only 58% could name three or more common breast cancer symptoms. Couple this with the statistic that 72% of all breast cancers are detected by women who self-examine, and it’s obvious that falling out of the self-check habit is not advisable.
“It is extremely concerning that so many women are not checking their breasts regularly and that many others are not sure what to look for,” said Eluned Hughes, the head of public health for Breast Cancer Now. “It’s so important that all women are breast aware, as the earlier the disease is detected, the more likely treatment is to be successful. Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes. There is no special technique – you can do it whenever suits you – in the shower or waiting for the kettle to boil.”
So, if you’ve fallen out of the habit – or not even got into it in the first place – it makes sense to run down the very simple procedure of performing a breast check.
Get a side angle
Look for lumps in your breasts by standing in front of a mirror side-on, with your arms by your side, and then with arms raised.
Feel for lumps
The best method is to feel each breast and both armpits up to the collarbone area. It may be more convenient to do this in the bath or shower, with soapy hands.
Don’t forget the other breast cancer symptoms
Make sure you check for;
- a change in size, outline or shape of your breast
- puckering or dimpling of the skin
- a new lump or bump in a breast or armpit
- discharge or bleeding from the nipple
- any change in nipple position, or the nipple being pulled inside the breast or pointing differently
- a rash or a moist red area around the nipple which does not heal easily.
If you detect any of these breast cancer symptoms, it makes sense to check in with your GP. It may not be a sign of breast cancer, but it certainly won’t be a waste of anyone’s time and will be a weight off your mind.
If there’s a lump, don’t panic
Lumps can be a common (and natural) occurrence in breasts, and when medically investigated, nine out of ten breast lumps turn to be not cancerous. And the sooner a cancer is detected, the better chance you have of eliminating it. It makes sense to get into the breast-check habit, and – this time – stick to it.