Sound the alarm! Lizzo and Chris Evans are flirting online again
Sound the alarm! Lizzo and Chris Evans are flirting online again

Sarah Finnan

Disney’s attack on Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow lawsuit is incredibly gendered
Disney’s attack on Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow lawsuit is incredibly gendered

Jennifer McShane

All things seaside, from shells to starfish, are making a splash
All things seaside, from shells to starfish, are making a splash

Holly O'Neill

‘I did it for me’: Simone Biles triumphantly takes Bronze at Tokyo Olympics
‘I did it for me’: Simone Biles triumphantly takes Bronze at Tokyo Olympics

Jennifer McShane

DreamWorks has just hired their first female composer – and she’s Irish
DreamWorks has just hired their first female composer – and she’s Irish

Sarah Finnan

WIN a Fitbit Sense health smartwatch, with tools for stress management
WIN a Fitbit Sense health smartwatch, with tools for stress management

IMAGE

Tom Ford’s new leather scent is as sophisticated as they come
Tom Ford’s new leather scent is as sophisticated as they come

Holly O'Neill

How to deal with failure: 4 tips on how to recover from a setback
How to deal with failure: 4 tips on how to recover from a setback

Colette Sexton

The ‘Friends’ cast just launched their first official limited-edition merch collection
The ‘Friends’ cast just launched their first official limited-edition merch collection

Sarah Finnan

A shared gold medal and an Olympic knitter: The most heartwarming moments from the Olympics so far
A shared gold medal and an Olympic knitter: The most heartwarming moments from the Olympics...

Sarah Finnan

Image / Self

Breast cancer awareness: how to check your breasts at home


by Grace McGettigan
06th Oct 2020
blank

It’s October, which means it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While regular check-ups with your GP are important, so is learning how to check your breasts at home.


Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Ireland, with over 3,000 diagnoses being made every year. What’s more, approximately eight women are diagnosed with the illness every single day. Given its prevalence in this country, it’s important we give ourselves the best chance; that is by regularly checking our breasts for changes, no matter how big or small.

But how? It’s not the type of thing they teach us in school, and unless a doctor has shown you, it can seem like a foreign concept. For that reason, we’ve gathered and compiled expert advice from the Irish Cancer Society and the Marie Keating Foundation to make the process simple and straightforward.

Before you get started

There are a few things that will make life (and self-exams) easier for you. The main thing is to find your ‘normal’, and seek professional advice if your normal begins to change.

Note that your ‘normal’ will change at various points of your menstrual cycle. This is okay. Become familiar with how your breasts look and feel before, during and after your period. After a few months, you’ll see a pattern of what’s normal for you. Similar changes may also happen during menopause or breastfeeding.

Related: Serena Williams sings I touch myself
for breast cancer awareness 

Firstly, develop a routine. For at-home checks to work, you need to do them regularly. Choose something you already do on a regular basis (be it having a shower, listening to a weekly podcast, or even just getting dressed) and use that activity as a marker. Soon, doing one with the other will become second nature.

Secondly, keep a journal, either on your phone or on paper. Make a note of what you feel, the colour/pigmentation of your breasts, and note if one looks bigger than the other. You might think you’ll remember the details from check-to-check, but it’s human nature to forget. Jot down everything, including the day’s date, just in case.

Thirdly, don’t be afraid if you feel something unusual. Not all lumps are cancerous. In fact, more often than not, there’s nothing to worry about. Simply make a note of it, and arrange an appointment with your doctor at your earliest convenience.

Related: UK woman has created false eyelashes specifically
for cancer patients

How to check your breasts at home

Approximately 74% of Irish women with breast cancer discovered the lump themselves, which highlights the importance of examining your breasts at home. Here are four ways to do that:

  1. Stand in front of a mirror and become familiar with what your breasts look like from all angles. Note their size, pigmentation, the appearance of the skin and the appearance of the nipple.
  2. Using four fingers and the flat of your hand, begin at the outer edge of the breast (nearest your chest) and work around in a full 360-degree circle. Keep pressing the breast in circular motions, noticing if any breast tissue feels different from the rest. Continue feeling around in circular motions, moving inwards, until you reach the nipple.
  3. Next, check your armpit, as breast tissue extends here. Raising one arm up above your head, use your four fingers (flat, just as before) and feel around the breast tissue. Repeat with your other armpit. Some women find this easier to do while lying down.
  4. Gently squeeze your nipple and check for discharge.

breast cancer awarenessIllustration by Sophie Teyssier

Things to be aware of

The Irish Cancer Society says to look out for the following symptoms:

  • A change in size or shape – it may be that one breast has become larger than the other.
  • Changes in the nipple – in direction or shape. Is it pulled in or flattened?
  • Changes on or around the nipple –  is there a rash, flaky or crusted skin?
  • Changes in the skin – dimpling, puckering or redness.
  • ‘Orange peel’ appearance of the skin caused by unusually enlarged pores.
  • Swelling in your armpit or around your collarbone.
  • A lump, any size, or thickening in your breast.
  • Constant pain in one part of your breast or armpit.

Risk factors

While there is no way to prevent the illness completely, there are a few lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk. These are:

    • Limit alcohol consumption
    • Don’t smoke
    • Get active; exercise regularly
    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Be breast-aware; i.e. be familiar with your ‘normal’.

See a video demonstrating the full self-check routine here:

Remember, when in doubt, always seek further advice from your GP or local healthcare practitioner. More information can be found at Cancer.ie and MarieKeating.ie.  


 

Read more: Irish women convince global brand Vero Moda to back breast cancer campaign

Read more: Helen Cody exhibition for cancer support impresses with top Irish designers

Read more: 11 brands to shop while also supporting breast cancer awareness

Top photo: Pexels

Also Read

intuitive eating
HEALTH & WELLNESS, BEAUTY
Step off the hamster wheel of dieting: an in-depth guide to intuitive eating

Are you sick and tired of the idea of “good” and “bad” food? Tune in to the Intuitive Eating movement,...

By Melanie Morris

Find your focus
ADVICE, HEALTH & WELLNESS
Struggling to focus? This is why you need to stop multitasking

Finally finishing this column has made me commit to finding my focus for the month and reducing the noise of...

By Leonie Corcoran

blank
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Menopause: What to expect and how to prepare for it according to one of Ireland’s top endocrinologists

Shayna Sappington sits down with one of Ireland’s top endocrinologists Dr Mary Ryan to discuss perimenopause and menopause – what...

By Shayna Sappington

tapping
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Tapping: the wellness trend that will help you ease post-lockdown anxiety

This quick seven-minute tapping routine is a great way to destress and help you ease any post-lockdown anxieties that may...

By Sarah Finnan

blank
premium ADVICE, RELATIONSHIPS
Ask The Expert: How do I go about getting separated? What are my rights?

Karen Tobin (Family Law Solicitor and Mediator at Comyn Kelleher Tobin LLP) outlines your options, your rights, the paperwork to have ready and the mistakes to avoid making if you have decided to end your relationship

By Karen Tobin

blank
SELF
‘Nothing prepares you for the yearning that comes when you want to have a baby at a later stage of life’

Does fertility ‘fall off a cliff’ as you enter your fifth decade? And what does that mean for your baby...

By Amanda Cassidy

blank
PARENTHOOD
What you think parenting is like versus what it is actually like

Parenting is an alternate universe of things you’d never imagine signing up for. Amanda Cassidy on reality versus expectations when...

By Amanda Cassidy