The Department of Health recommends that women should be 'breast aware' and encourages them to check their breasts regularly.
Breast aware means being aware of how your breasts normally look and feel at different times. You will then be able to notice any changes in the shape or texture of your breasts, or whether you develop any signs or symptoms, such as a lump. If you notice a lump or other changes on your breast you should have it checked by your doctor as soon as possible.
How to check your breasts:
- Check your breasts every month. The week after your period has ended is the best time. If you are in menopause, check your breasts around the same time every month.
- You can feel your breasts while lying down in bed or in the bath or shower using a soapy hand. Using body lotion can help.
- Put your left had behind your head, with the pads of your right fingertips make small circular movements to examine your left breast for anything unusual.
- At first feel lightly, checking for anything near the surface. Then press quite firmly, feeling for anything deeper.
- Continue around the breast checking all areas. You can start at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn.
- Also examine above your breast, up to the collarbone and out to the armpit. Then do the same for the right side.
- Look at your breasts in the mirror. Move your arms above your head, onto your hips or by your sides so you can see your breasts from every angle, including the underside.
See your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- a lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast
- discharge from either of your nipples (which may be streaked with blood)
- a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- a rash on or around your nipple
- a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
Finding a change in your breast can be frightening. But it's important to remember that the majority of breast changes reported to GPs aren't serious. That said, it's important that any areas of concern aren't dismissed and you visit your doctor for advice, reassurance or further testing.
BreastCheck, provides free breast screening every three years for all women in the Ireland who are 50 to 64 years of age.
You should speak to your GP if you are below the screening age and you are concerned about changes in your breasts or you have a family history of breast cancer.