Getting To Know Your Breasts Through Regular Self-Checks

October is breast cancer awareness month in Ireland to raise awareness about the disease, as well as help people understand the seriousness and signs of the condition. According to the Health Service Executive (HSE), breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in Irish women, with 1 in 8 women being diagnosed in their lifetime. While most people diagnosed are over 50 years old, it does also happen to younger people. 


Like many other health services, breast screenings have been severely reduced due to the current Covid-19 restrictions. Now more than ever, it is extremely important to carry out breast self-checks at home, and know the signs to look out for when it comes to breast cancer. 


Firstly, know what is normal for you and your breasts. Your breasts will go through many different changes during your life. They can be affected by changes in hormones during things such as your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. With this in mind, here is how to carry out a breast self-exam, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation


If you are in the shower, lift your arm, then take the three middle fingers on the other hand and feel the breast all around using light, medium, and firm pressure. Repeat on the other side after that, feeling for any lumps, knots, or other changes. 


In the mirror, look for visual changes, such as contour, swelling or dimpling of the skin, or changes in nipples, including redness, irritation, and discharge. After that, lift up both arms and look at the breasts again. A pair of breasts is almost never completely even, but look for changes that are particularly on one side. 


When you lie down, the breast tissue spreads more evenly along the chest wall. Raise your arm and with the other hand, move the pads of your fingers around the breast gently. Make sure to cover the whole area, including the armpit. 


It is vital to make an appointment with your GP as early as possible if you notice any of these changes. 


Men also need to be aware of these symptoms. In Ireland, about 25 men are diagnosed with breast cancer compared to 3,000 women each year according to the Irish Cancer Society. However, it is still a good idea to examine yourself every month just in case. 


Try to do these checks around the same time every month, so you get familiar with your boobs and how they normally feel and look. It only takes five minutes to do a check and ensure your breasts are safe and healthy!