If you feel uncomfortable or anxious about feeling your breasts you may find it helpful to discuss your worries with the doctor or nurse at your GP’s surgery, or make an appointment to be seen in the out patients clinic (html link to how to make an appointment).
When should you consult with your doctor?
Any lump that feels unusual to you should be checked. Because some lumps come and go it may be worth checking again in a few days time to see if you can still feel the swelling. If a lump persists, especially after you have had a menstrual period, you should get it checked. Often by waiting until after a period, a lump will disappear spontaneously, but if not, consult with your doctor who may refer you if the lump persists or if it feels suspicious.
From time to time you should examine your breasts. By examining your breasts regularly you get to know what is normal for you – if there is a change – particularly if it persists – you should seek a medical opinion. Once a month is enough.
Choose a time when it is most comfortable to do so, perhaps after a period, or if you do not have periods then on a fixed point such as the first of the month.
First inspect your breast in the mirror, with your hands by your sides then raised. Look for any change in the skin such as dimpling. Turn from side to side and lean forward, looking for any asymmetry or dimpling of the skin.
Examine your breasts by gently pressing the flat of your middle fingers against your breast. Your fingers are more sensitive than your palms
Using a gentle circular movement, move the skin of your breast over the underlying tissue. It is normal to feel texture of the breast – sometimes this can be quite pronounced. Dont be alarmed, it is important to know what your breasts feel like so that if they change you will detect a lump. Compare one side with the other.
The breast covers the area shown in this piccture, extending right up into the underarm. Try to be conisstent in the way you examine your breasts so that you dont miss any area and so you can repeat what you do regularly and you can make it part of your routine. It should not take long and is not meant to be a burden to you!
Remember to examine your underarms. It is usual to be able to feel lymph nodes here, especially if you are slim. Sometimes lymph nodes can be enlarged – the commonest reason for this is in women who shave under their arms
Gently squeeze your nipple and see if any discharge is seen from the nipple. A small amount of discharge is normal – often it can be white, green, brown or straw-coloured. Any blood (as in bright red colour) needs to be investigated. Although this CAN be a sign of cancer, 90% of women who present with blood-stained discharge do not have breast cancer.
Dont forget to check the other breast
You should examine yourself lying down, lying on your side and on your back
Remember, if you DO find something like a lump, most lumps are harmless but any lump that persists after a period should be checked by a qualified clinician.