Only approximately 15% of women regularly check their breasts. You can already do a lot to detect breast cancer as early as possible by yourself.
Wherever possible, every woman should perform a regular self-examination of their breasts, preferably on a monthly basis, during their period. This is the time when their breasts are soft and can be properly felt.
Menopausal or postmenopausal women should consistently choose the same date during the month - a good time is approximately one week after opening a new month’s package of menopausal medication, after taking the medication.
Indications of breast disease can include:
- Nodes in the breast
- Newly detected breast size differences
- Skin lesions or retraction of the skin at the nipple
- Leaking of clear or bloody fluid at the nipple
- Different behaviour by the breast when lifting the arms
- Sudden reddening of the breasts which does not subside
- Inflammation of the breasts
How should you go about a self-examination?
You should keep to a sampling scheme once you have selected it.
When feeling for small nodes, you should feel not only the breasts themselves but also the armpits as well as the area between the breast and armpit.
- Look at your breasts in front of the mirror, with your arms by your side, and paying particular attention to any recent change in size, shape, appearance of the skin or the nipple.
- Raise your arms and check the shape and size of your breasts, from the front and from both sides. Pay particular attention to any wrinkles, skin lesions or retraction of the nipples.
- Compare both breasts and pay attention to any new, previously undetected differences. Can you see any bumps or contractions of the skin? Turn to the right and left in order to be able to look at the sides of your breasts.
- Then, while still standing, feel your breasts with all of the fingers of your open hand, checking the right breast with your left hand, and the left breast with your right. Vary the pressure when doing so, so that you can feel any nodes at different depths in your breast.
- Carefully check a quarter of the area of each breast at a time. The mammary gland is denser in most women in the upper outer quarter of the breast.
- Then, squeeze each nipple individually between your thumb and forefinger. Has it changed, or does it excrete liquid? If there is any liquid, note the colour.
- Finally, repeat the palpation of your breasts while lying down - once again, check each quarter of the breast in a circular pattern one after the other. This allows a better examination, particularly of the lower areas of the breast.
- Check with your fingers whether you can feel lymph nodes in your armpits. This is nothing out of the usual. It is only important to notice any recent appearance or change.