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Get to know your own breasts

Get to know your own breasts


Breast awareness is the process of getting to know your own breasts and becoming familiar with their appearance and how they feel.

The female breast goes through many normal changes during a woman’s lifetime due to constant hormonal influence, starting at menarche (onset of menstruation) until the menopause. It is not surprising, therefore, that a woman’s breast can feel different if examined at different times during her menstrual cycle. {{more}}

The breast tends to increase in size during the second half of each menstrual cycle, following ovulation. Mild pain and tenderness is common during this period. Some women will experience an exaggerated response to normal breast changes, the severity varying from woman to woman. Pregnancy and lactation cause changes geared towards the breasts primary function, which is milk production.

It is important therefore for women to become familiar with how their breasts feel at different times, to recognize what is normal, and in so doing, be able to detect abnormal change.

Self examination is best done at the same time each month and in a comfortable environment, for example when dressing or after a shower.

Ensure that good lighting is available and stand in front of a mirror. Look carefully at both breasts and turn from side to side with your hands at your side.

Next raise your hands looking from side to side as before, and then place your hands on your hips and press down.

Next feel each breast in turn: keeping fingers together and flat, firmly move over the whole breast and the armpit.

The important changes to look out for:

* Appearance – change in size or shape, puckering or dimpling of the skin;

* Nipple change – observe for any unusual nipple discharge, any change in nipple position, bleeding or moist areas which don’t heal easily, nipple rash on or around the nipple;

* Lumps – any new or unusual lumps, thickening or bumpy areas in the breast or armpit;

* Any unusual pain discomfort or feeling that is different from normal, and persistent.

Remember the vast majority of changes which occur in the breasts are harmless and will not be due to cancer. If you find any changes from the normal see your doctor.