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How to check for breast cancer, according to the experts

Breast cancer awareness month is upon us — and first and foremost, it should serve as a reminder of just how important it is for all of us to perform regular breast checks. According to Breast Cancer UK, there 56,000 new cases of breast cancer every year — in fact, it is the most common cancer in the world, with roughly 12% of all cancers being female breast cancer.

We're all aware that we should check for breast cancer each month. But, how many of us actually do it? And how many of us really know what we should be looking for? While some have developed a good habit of regularly examining for signs, lots of us don't make the time, or would rather bury our heads in the sand. But regular check-ups can save lives and ensure – if we ever do discover something that shouldn't be there – that it's treated as quickly as possible.

It's clear there's a lot of confusion around what exactly to look out for. A shocking six million women declared they don’t know how to check their breasts for cancer and a staggering 80% of women are unclear on what could increase their risk of breast cancer, according to Bupa Health Clinics.

It may seem scary, but getting to know our bodies regularly is the best way to keep on top of any changes and get them checked out if necessary.

When to check your boobs

Try and choose the same time every month to check them – after your period is best – so you can get to know what's normal for you.

What to feel for when checking your boobs:

It is important to get to now the normal rhythm of your boobs so you will detect anything abnormal quickly.

Feel for irregular lumps (which can be relatively small) that are firm and solid.

What does a breast lump feel like?

A doctor will be able to properly examine you but a cancerous lump may feel quite rounded, soft, and tender. It may also feel quite be painful.

Signs and symptoms of breast cancer to look out for

Aside from a lump, there are seven other signs that we should be looking out for (all of which are listed below) – if you spot any of these, it's best to see your doctor. Most of the time, there'll be another explanation for your symptom, but early detection is essential when it comes to treating breast cancer.

First, look at your breasts and check if you can notice anything visually. Lift your arms in the air to check underneath your armpits, too. Then, use the flat part of your fingers to feel and press across your breasts, armpit, collarbone and nipples. If you get into the habit of doing this regularly, you'll quickly get to know what's normal for you.

Remember, the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be successful. Which is why it’s so important that make note of any changes or concerns and get them checked out with our GP.

Here's a reminder of what out to look for and how to check for breast cancer according to the experts…

  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • a new lump or area that feels thicker than the rest of the breast
  • a change in the look, feel or texture of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling
  • redness or a rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin on or around the nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
  • a discharge of fluid from either nipples
  • pain in your breast or armpit that remains constant
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits or around your collarbone

How to check large boobs

It goes without saying that all boobs are important, but it's fair to say that bigger boobs often get left out of the conversation when it comes to the visuals around checking for lumps. That's why Dr Sara Kayat's tutorial on This Morning has had such a huge response after she demonstrated how to check for lumps on a patient with larger boobs.

“If you have got larger breasts, it's important to lift up the breasts as well and look underneath the breasts,” Dr Sara said, while co-host Alison Hammond responded: “this is me. I'm so glad you've used somebody who's got larger breasts.”

Addressing the issue, Dr Sara said: “this is it, it's so important, because often you just see these small breasts and it's easier with smaller breasts, but it's so important to make sure that everyone is included, absolutely.” She continued saying: “when we're feeling the breasts, we can do it standing up – lots of people like to do it in the shower, it's just a bit easier that way – but if you do have larger breasts, sometimes it's easier to do it lying down at about 30 degrees. So with a couple of cushions on your bed. You want to push the tissue [quite hard] against the rib cage and feel if there's a lump there.”

How to check your breasts for lumps video

What do I do if I notice these changes?

Obviously if you notice anything unusual or a new lump, book yourself in to see your doctor as soon as possible.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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