Protect yourself with regular self-examinations:
It’s a good idea to examine your breasts once a month, and it makes sense to choose the same time each month because breasts usually change with the menstrual cycle. The best time to do a BSE is about a week after your period starts.
There are two parts to a BSE:
- How your breasts look
- How they feel
The looking part is easy. Before you put on a bra, stand or sit in front of a mirror with your arms relaxed at your sides. Make sure you are in a place with good lighting. Look at your breasts carefully. Do you see anything unusual, like a change in the way your nipples look? Any dimples or changes in the skin?
While you’re doing the exam, it’s a good idea not to take your hand off your breast so you don’t miss a spot. You should also check your armpits for any lumps. Women who have large breasts should also feel their breasts from the side, while lying on one side and then the other.
As you feel your breasts, you may notice lumps or bumps. This is usually normal — just like so many things about people, breasts are unique. Some womens’ breasts are large, some are small; some are symmetrical, others are not. Some healthy breasts feel really bumpy, whereas others are less so. Most women have healthy breasts no matter what they look or feel like. But if you’re worried about the way your breasts look or feel, let your doctor know.
Have a look at what is happening this month to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month– including information about the artists dedicated to the cause such as Birdie and how you can donate towards breast cancer research.
If you feel an unusual lump in your breast, don’t panic. Other common conditions can cause a breast lump, such as a noncancerous growth known as a fibroadenoma, and small, fluid-filled cysts that tend to vary in size with a woman’s menstrual cycle and are called fibrocystic breast changes.
Fibrocystic breast changes are common. In fact more than half of all women have them. They’re related to the normal cycling of hormones associated with menstruation. Fibrocystic breast changes are typically worse just before and at the start of a woman’s period.
If you feel a lump in your breast, talk to your doctor to see if the cause is one of these common conditions. If you have fibrocystic breast changes or other breast problems that may make it difficult to perform a good BSE, your doctor can help.
Infections can also cause breast lumps, as can an injury to the breast.
If you have any of these problems, you should talk to your doctor:
- pain in your breast that seems unrelated to your period
- a new lump, bump, or other change in your breast
- a red, hot, or swollen breast
- fluid or bloody discharge from your nipple
- a lump in your armpit or near your collarbone
- any questions or concerns about your breasts
The goal of a BSE is for you to get used to the way your breasts feel. The better you know your body, the healthier you can be!