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5 Steps to performing a breast self-exam

Text: Nicola Davidson; Photography: Getty Images

October 18, 2017

5 Steps to performing a breast self-exam

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, so we thought we’d use the opportunity to get you not just thinking about your ladies, but checking them, too. With approximately 19.4 million women in South Africa at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s the most common form of cancer (apart from non-melanoma skin cancer) affecting women of all races, with a one in 26 lifetime risk in SA alone. As such, it’s more important than ever to check your breasts regularly for lumps or irregularities, and to contact your healthcare practitioner immediately should you find any. 

Follow our easy guide to performing your own breast self-exam, and find out what you should be looking out for

1 Take a look at your breasts in the mirror. Are they the usual size, shape and colour? If you notice any dimpling or puckering of the skin, any change in your nipples’ position or any redness, soreness or swelling, contact your doctor immediately. 

2 Lift your arms above your head and examine your breasts for the same identifiers. Pay particular attention to whether or not any fluid may be coming from your nipples, whether watery, milky or bloody. If any of these irregularities are present, make sure you see your doctor for a diagnosis. 

3 For a more hands-on approach, lie down with a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. With the finger pads of your left hand, touch your right breast firmly and smoothly (applying a cream or shower gel first may make the motion easier), keeping your fingers together and moving in small circles. 

4 Repeat the movement from the top of your breast to the bottom, side to side, and all the way from your armpit to your cleavage in the centre of your chest. Either work your way from your nipple outwards, or go from top to bottom, but make sure you cover your entire breast with firm strokes. Once you’ve examined your right breast, repeat the same process with the left. Keep in mind that because your breast is made up of both firm and soft tissue, certain lumps and bumps under the skin are normal. If you feel an irregularity you’re unsure of, check whether or not there is a similar lump on your other breast in the same place. Any bumps that feel harder than the rest or different to your other breast tissue should immediately be checked with your doctor. 

5 No time to lie down? Check your breasts while you’re in the shower. After lathering on soap, raise your right arm above your head and use your left hand to check your right breast, working your fingers in the same circular motion. Repeat the same check on the other side, feeling for any irregular lumps. 

While performing a self-exam may seem awkward, it’s a necessary step in early detection, and one that you should carry out at least once a month during ovulation. The more familiar you are with your body and its changes, the earlier you’ll be able to seek treatment should you ever need to. Spread the word among your family members and friends, and make sure you look after your health this month and every month.  

If you’re looking to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October in ways big or small, here are seven charitable products we love.

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