Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in Britain. Survival rates are better than ever, but the earlier the cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment.
Here is our at-a-glance animated guide to checking your breasts thoroughly.
Current advice is that women should 'get to know their breasts' and find out what's 'normal' for them, rather than checking breasts in a regimented and prescriptive fashion.
Your breasts will go through perfectly normal changes throughout your lifetime. They are affected by hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breastfeeding, the menopause (change of life) and weight loss or weight gain.
Breast awareness is about becoming familiar with your normal breast tissue and how it changes, for example before or after your period.
Get into the habit of looking at and feeling your breasts from time to time. One way of looking is by using a mirror so that you can see your breasts from different angles. You may find feeling your breasts is easier to do with a soapy hand in the bath or shower, or you may prefer to do it lying down. You can decide what is convenient for you and what you are comfortable with.
You will know better than anyone how your breast feels and looks normally, so if you do notice a change, see your GP. Don't worry that you may be making an unnecessary fuss, your doctor is there to help, and remember that most breast changes will be non-cancerous and harmless.
To help you check your breasts, follow this simple five-point code:
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- Know what is normal for you
- Know what changes to look and feel for
- Look and feel your breasts
- Report any changes to your GP without delay
- Attend for routine breast screening if you are aged 50 or over
Using a soapy hand, glide the palm of your hand over your breast in a circular movement - as if you were washing your breast. Start around the armpit and move towards the top of the breast. Now move your hand towards the middle of the breast, finishing underneath. Apply enough pressure that's comfortable for you. Now repeat on the other breast.