It is essential to empower ourselves with knowledge about our bodies, and what better place to start than with our breasts?
Understanding how they look and feel throughout the month can provide valuable insights and peace of mind. In this edition, we bring you the ultimate guide to self-examination and self-awareness, so you can confidently take charge of your breast health.
Timing is Everything
Did you know that performing a breast self-exam on the final day of menstruation can be especially beneficial?
Your breasts undergo normal changes in the lead up to your period, so waiting until the final day of bleeding, when your breasts are less swollen and tender, may make it easier to observe any new developments.
It is generally recommended to perform a breast self-exam monthly, and performing a breast self-exam around the same time each month will help with developing a consistent habit. Women who do not have regular menstruation can create a habit by performing a breast self-exam on any same date of each month - so, mark your calendars!
The How-To's of Self-Examination
Let's dive into the step-by-step process of performing a thorough breast self-exam:
- Find your comfort zone: Whether lying down, sitting, or in the shower, choose a position that feels right for you.
- Arm up, hand back: Lift one arm and place your hand behind your head to expose the breast on the opposite side.
- Gentle exploration: Using the fingertips of your other hand, feel your breast in a systematic pattern. You can try circular motions or move from left to right. Don't forget to include the area under your armpit.
- Take note of sensations: Pay attention to how your breast and underarm area feel. Adjust the pressure of your touch as needed. Surprisingly, a gentle touch is often sufficient for a thorough examination.
- Repeat the process: Don't neglect the other side. Perform the same examination steps on your other breast as well.
- Document your findings: Afterward, jot down any observations you made during the examination. Note the shape, size, and any unusual lumps you may have noticed.
- Seek professional advice: Remember, if you discover any new or concerning changes, don't hesitate to consult your doctor. They are there to support you every step of the way!
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
It's not just how your breasts feel but also how they look that matters.
Stand in front of the mirror to acquaint yourself with their appearance. Observe the size, shape, colour, and texture. While it's normal for breasts to have slight differences in size, be mindful of any sudden changes, especially if accompanied by redness, rash, pain, swelling, or discharge. If in doubt, seek professional guidance.
Understanding Breast Lumps
Discovering a lump in your breast can be alarming, but remember, not all lumps are cancerous. Fibroadenomas, common non-cancerous tissue growths, and cysts resulting from fluid build-up are also possibilities. Painless, hard, and irregularly shaped lumps are more often associated with cancer, however it is important to consult your doctor promptly for a thorough evaluation if you detect any breast lumps during self-examination.
The Ebb and Flow of Your Cycle
Your breasts can go through various changes throughout your menstrual cycle. In the days leading up to your period, you might experience increased firmness, tenderness, and general lumpiness near the armpit or within the breast. Remember, these changes are typically normal, but remain attentive to any unusual or persistent symptoms.
Breastfeeding and Beyond
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural journey for many mothers. While breast cancer during lactation is rare, it's crucial to be aware of any new or concerning breast changes during this time. Consult your GP or midwife for guidance and support.
When Every Second Counts
We understand that life can get hectic, and sometimes, prioritising your health might be challenging. However, we urge you not to ignore any breast changes that give you cause for concern. While the majority of investigated breast lumps turn out to be non-cancerous, it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you notice puckering, dimpling, redness, swelling, nipple discharge, changes in nipple position, or any unusual rash or itching, do not delay seeing your doctor.
Know Your Lemons
In your quest for breast health, Know Your Lemons is an invaluable resource. This empowering organisation provides comprehensive information and tools to support your breast examination journey. Explore their website and embrace the power of knowledge!
By prioritising self-examination, and seeking professional advice when needed, you can embark on a journey of self-care and breast health awareness.