Breast Cancer: Detecting the Warning Signs
To check for possible signs of breast cancer you should look for any changes in the appearance of your breasts. You can do this when you are bathing or dressing. Or, if you prefer a routine, examine the breasts at the same time each month, immediately after your period, or – after the menopause – on the first day of each month.
Your self-examination may reveal an irregularity – from a difference in the size or shape of the breasts to over-prominent veins. Most irregularities are unlikely to mean that cancer is present, but to make absolutely sure, you should show any findings to your doctor. It may also reveal a lump.
Looking for irregularities
1. Undress to the waist and stand in front of a good-sized mirror. Note the size and shape of each breast and also look out for any existing irregularities. If you have not already done so, report these to your doctor.
In future examinations look for any unusual changes or differences – such as a swelling or dis-coloration of either breast.
2. Place your hands lightly behind your head. This will emphasise any difference in size or shape between your breasts. Turn sideways and look again.
Then concentrate on the nipples, looking for any excessive upward or outward thrust of either nipple. Also look out for any sign of bleeding or weeping from either of the nipples.
3. Briefly stretch your arms above your head. Again, this will emphasise any difference between your breasts that has occurred during the past month. You should also look for any unusual rash on the breasts or nipples and any unusually prominent veins over either breast.
4. Place your hands firmly on your hips and push inwards. Look at your breasts carefully while you continue pressing. This action will emphasise any puckering of the skin – or any turning in on itself of either nipple. Make sure to look at the undersides of your breasts for puckering, lifting up each breast to do so.
Feeling for lumps
During the examination, you should also feel the breasts for lumps. Lie on a firm surface with your head on a pillow. Feel with the flat of the pads of the middle three fingers, keeping the fingers straight. Each time you feel, press the breast tissue gently but firmly towards the chest wall.
1. Start to feel near the nipple, keeping your other arm by your side. Move your fingers out over the breast, with a spiral motion.
2. Feel the bottom of the breast, then feel the outside of the breast.
3. Place your other arm above your head and then go through the same examination of the entire breast.
4. Thoroughly feel the part of the breast that extends towards the armpit. Repeat the examination on the other breast.