Breast Cancer Awareness Month - A short guide to breast self-exams
Friday, October 21st, 2016 | Raising Awareness
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer within the United Kingdom, but less than 50% of women in the UK check their breasts regularly, which is quite surprising. Many women either forget to check, or simply aren’t sure on the correct way to do it. You can book yourself a clinical breast exam so a qualified health professional can examine your breast tissue, but it is important that you also check yourself.
Today is Wear it Pink Friday, in aid of breast cancer, and Kare Plus is proud to get behind it to help fight the most common cancer the UK. As always, prevention is better than cure, so below we have put together a guide on how to correctly examine your breasts for lumps or other signs of breast cancer; along with some tips for setting a routine for checking.
There are a few different ways to examine your breasts. For many people a shower is one of the easiest places as it offers a warm and relaxed environment. Whilst in the shower, using the pads of your fingers and a flat hand, move around the breast in a circular motion from the outside to the centre. Check the entire breast, as well as the armpit and collarbone area, cancer can spread to the lymph nodes in these areas causing lumps and inflammation. Get to know your own breasts and what works for you, if you feel anything different, or anything that’s changed, then contact your GP.
Visual keys are also an important part of breast exams, you know your breasts better than any other person and should know exactly what they look like. As you start to build up a routine of visually checking them, any changes or differences are likely to be very obvious. Stand in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides and look for any changes, take note of any swelling or dimpling in the skin - also check the nipples for any changes. Next, raise your arms up above your head before moving your hands to your hips and tensing your chest muscles. Using these different positions will help you get a full view of your breasts, armpits and collarbone, meaning you are able to more effectively assess your breasts.
Lying down on the floor spreads the breast tissue out more evenly, making it easier to feel any bumps or anything different. Place a pillow below your right shoulder and place your right hand flat above your head, then use the pads of your fingers in a circular motion around the breast moving from the outside towards the centre. Use varied amount of pressure before swapping the pillow and repeating the process for your left breast as well.
Regularly checking like this can help reduce the chance of being diagnosed in the later stages of cancer. The survivability rate of cancer is affected by how early it is caught, so being proactive and self aware can increase your chances of surviving cancer should you ever be diagnosed.
Men should also regularly check their breast tissue, while breast cancer in men is rare (on average, just 350 cases per year), it is often caught too late, which means the survival rate in men is far lower than women. This is down to the lack of knowledge and
Build a schedule
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to perfectly self-assess, as long as as you do it regularly you’ll get better with repetition.
Kare Plus’ Clinical Lead, Kate expressed how important it is to check at least once a month, suggesting just a few days after a woman’s period (when breast are less likely to be swollen or achy), is a great time to remember to check.
There are plenty of other ways to remember though. Why not set a monthly reminder on your phone? This way an alarm will go off once a month, reminding you to self assess. You could even write it down on your calendar, meaning you don’t have to rely on technology to remind you.
The charity Breast Cancer Now is making it as easy as possible for women to remember to check with the #BreastCheckNow app. This October, they need your help to get women regularly checking their breasts. Spread the word about their new app, ‘Breast Check Now’ – it’s FREE to download and will help save lives.
Breast Cancer Now’s goal for the app is to get at least 50,000 women to download it in the next 12 months – the same number of women who are currently diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Britain. The app, available for free from the App Store or Google Play, helps people get into the habit of checking their breasts regularly by setting up a plan that’s simple, easy and fits in with their lifestyle.
Don’t forget, there is loads of useful information out there, with hints, tips and even videos for how best check your breasts. The best way to beat cancer is to prevent it; be proactive in the fight against it.
If you want to find out more please visit some of the links below: