October is breast awareness month and with cancer cases up by a fifth it’s more important than ever to spot the early warning signs
With all the publicity and campaigning about breast cancer you might be forgiven for thinking the battle to beat the disease is won. You’d be wrong. According the official Office of National Statistics figures, cases of breast cancer have risen by 20 per cent over the decade. A sobering thought, and all the more reason why breast awareness month has never been more important.
Picking up any abnormalities as early as possible is vital, which means it’s important that women self-examine regularly and know what to look for. Throughout a lifetime the levels of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone vary, causing women’s breasts to change.
For younger women, the best time to self-examine the breasts is about three to five days after the period starts because breasts are not as tender or lumpy at this time in the monthly cycle. Women who’ve gone through menopause should examine their breasts on the same day every month.
How to self-examine:
Place your right hand behind your head. With the middle fingers of your left hand, gently yet firmly press down using small motions to examine the entire right breast. Next, sit or stand. Feel your armpit, because breast tissue goes into that area. Gently squeeze the nipple, checking for discharge. Repeat the process on the left breast.
Then stand in front of a mirror with your arms by your side. Look at your breasts directly and in the mirror. Look for changes in skin texture, such as dimpling, puckering, indentations, or skin that looks like an orange peel. Also note the shape and outline of each breast. Check to see if the nipple turns inward. Do the same with your arms raised above your head.
7 CHANGES TO CHECK FOR
- A lump on or around the breast. This may not be seen, but might be felt either in the breast, upper chest or armpit.
- Persistent lumpy area or unusual thickening of the breast tissue.
- Any constant pain in part of the breast or armpit
- Change in size or shape of either of the breasts.
- Redness or rash on the skin that looks like eczema.
- Change in appearance or direction of the nipple on the breast.
- Nipple discharge from the breast.