Most women will have healthy breasts for the whole of their lives.
However, because of the concern over breast cancer, many women find it reassuring to spend time on a regular basis checking that their breasts continue to be normal and healthy.
There are two important ways to look after your breast health
1) Practise breast awareness
2) Attend a breast screening programme when invited
Helping you feel more confident about your breast health
Breast awareness is about feeling empowered to be more aware of any changes in your breasts by simply looking and feeling. There is no set way to do this – it just depends how you feel most comfortable: in the bath or shower or when dressing, when standing or lying down. This should be part of your everyday routine and not done at any set point of the month or a specific number of times.
Get to know what’s normal for you
If you know how your breasts look and feel at different times, you’ll understand what is normal for you and more easily recognize any changes.
There is no such thing as ‘standard’ breasts. What is normal for one woman may not be for another. You will even find that your own two breasts are different from each other. Your breasts may also look and feel different at different stages of your menstrual cycle, when some breasts feel tender or lumpy.
Be aware of changes
Checking your breasts is not only about looking for any abnormal lumps but there are other important changes that you should be aware of too. These include:
- A change in the size or shape of your breast
- A change in the skin – particularly dimpling or puckering
- A change in the appearance of the nipple or a discharge from the nipple
- Breast pain that does not go away after a period
- Lumpy areas or thickening of the breast
If you notice any changes you should ask your doctor about them as soon as possible. They will probably be harmless but your doctor will be able to reassure you.
Most of the time that you find a lump or other change it is not serious and can be easily treated if needed. If it should turn out to be cancer then there is a very good chance of successful treatment.
And the earlier any problems are found, the better the chances. This is why it is important to be “breast aware” and regularly check for any changes.