Checking your breasts regularly is important for catching possible symptoms of breast cancer, such as a lump or change in skin texture, as early as possible. Dr Dawn Harper joined HELLO! to explain how to check your breasts and what you should do if you notice anything unusual for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and recommended women to get to know what's normal for them.
"You don't need to know everything about your breasts, you just need to know what's normal for you," Dr Dawn advised. "If you get into the habit of looking at your breasts, they are and they will be asymmetrical. Anything up to a cup or two in difference is completely normal. So you need to get used to looking for that, but if they change in shape then we need to know. If you notice any tethering or dimpling of the skin we need to know."
The Know Your Lemons campaign from Worldwide Breast Cancer shows what breast cancer may look or feel like
The Embarrassing Bodies star said your first inspection should be a visual one, and advised women to look at their breasts in the mirror before taking a bath or shower. "I often tell ladies to stand in front of the mirror and raise their hands high above their head so you actually lift the breast and can see underneath," she said. "Particularly in smaller ladies if you put your hands on your waist and tense that moves the breast tissue forward a little bit and that might bring something to light that you hadn't noticed otherwise."
Then when it comes to a physical inspection, use the flat of your hand to feel for any changes. Dr Dawn explained: "Work your way around the breast quite firmly, as though you're the hands of a clock. The breast tissue goes into the armpit so it's very important that you feel up there as well. When you're examining, also squeeze around the nipple so you can check if there's any discharge from the nipple."
Dr Dawn Harper shared her expert tips on how to check your breasts
Breast cancer now affects one in eight women in their lifetimes, however nine out of ten breast lumps that are seen by a breast specialist turn out to be benign. So while it is important to check your breasts regularly and see a doctor as soon as you notice anything unusual, often it is nothing to worry about and changes can be due to a number of factors such as hormones.
"It's common to get a more generalised lumpiness in the breast before a period which is quickly resolved.," Dr Dawn said. "Often when we see a woman with changes in her breast we ask her to come back two weeks later when you know you're at a completely different part of your cycle. See the same doctor so you can compare like with like, and often that lumpiness will have gone. But don't put it off, do come and see us because the earlier you pick it up the better the outlook."
Watch Dr Dawn's Facebook Live in the video above for a demonstration of how to check your breasts.
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