Examining your breasts on your own regularly is a crucial way to look out for early stages of breast cancer, which has a higher success rate when it comes to being treated. Together with going for breast cancer screening tests, the odds of early detection are higher.
Self-examining your breasts can be done once a month, around 7 – 10 days after the start of your period when your breast feels the least tender and swollen. For menopausal women, choose your own date that’s easy to remember.
As with many other diseases, your risk of breast cancer goes up as you get older. To ensure early detection, it is recommended for:
Women between ages of 50 to 69: Go for a mammogram screening once every two years. For every month in between screenings, do a routine self-exam.
Women between ages of 40 to 49: Consult with your doctor if you need to go for a mammogram. Continue to perform routine self-exam monthly.
Women under 40: Every month, do a self-exam to feel and look for any changes to your breasts.
Here at International Cancer Specialists (ICS), we also provide breast screening services to conduct a comprehensive check and early detection of any breast cancer signs. In the meantime, it is good to practise your own breast self-exam at home and be familiar with your body – in 5 simple steps listed below.
While standing in front of the mirror, straighten your shoulders and put your arms on your hips. Look at the mirror reflection of your breasts. If your breasts are in their usual shape, size and colour, and do not display any noticeable swelling or minor swelling, there shouldn’t be any concern.
Changes in the nipple include fluid discharge, rash or crusting around the nipple, and appearance (inverted). Other symptoms also include dimpling, bulging or puckering of the skin. Check for any redness, swelling, soreness, or rashes that can appear around the breasts. If any of these symptoms appear, inform them to your doctor.
Lift up your arms and spot the exact changes in the above step.
Look in the mirror and pay attention to signs of fluids (such as watery, milky, yellowish fluid or blood) coming out from either one or both nipples.
Lie down and examine your breasts from your armpit to your cleavage. Use your right hand to feel your left breast and left hand to feel your right breast for any lumps.
Starting from the nipple, use the pads of your three middle fingers and move in a circular motion, roughly the dimensions of a coin, to feel all the breast tissue. Ensure you’ve entirely examined the whole breast. Another alternative is to move your fingers up and down vertically.
Use different levels of pressure to cover different depths of the breast. Apply light pressure for the tissue as well as skin, beneath your breasts, and medium pressure for the tissue in the middle of your breasts. For the deep tissue at the back, use firm pressure. You will then feel your ribcage when you’ve reached the tissue.
Lastly, you can take a seat or stand up as you check your breasts for lumps. Many women prefer to do this while showering as they feel that the most effortless way to feel their breasts is when their skin is slippery and wet. Lather your fingers with soap to help them glide over more smoothly over your breasts and repeat the exact hand motions explained in the previous step.
What You Should Do If You Find A Lump
Finding a lump might be terrifying but don’t panic just yet; it’s a common occurrence. Most women find lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts, but the majority of them are not cancerous. The possible causes of non-cancerous breast lumps are vast, including a benign breast condition, hormonal changes, or an injury.
Nevertheless, it is important to have them checked as soon as possible as a precaution. Consult with your doctor if you’ve noticed a lump or other changes in your breasts that are new and worrisome, or if they have lasted more than one full menstrual cycle. Your doctor will usually take a health history on you and do a physical exam of the breast before ordering breast imaging tests.
An established cancer treatment centre in Singapore, ICS strives to serve our patients with holistic and competent care. ICS provides cancer screening tests for various cancer diseases, including breast, cervix and endometrial cancer.
If you wish to schedule an appointment or have any health-related enquiries, feel free to get in touch with us via our hotline, email or WhatsApp.