The Harley Medical Group

Early Breast Cancer Diagnosis Can Save Lives

Overview/Introduction:

October is known globally as the month of Breast Cancer awareness. There are still lots of questions and fear around this disease but it’s important to raise that the chances of survival from breast cancer significantly increase when it is spotted early. If the cancer is diagnosed at the early stages it hasn’t had the chance to spread too far, so treatment is likely to be more successful. This means that it’s important to get to know your body, and talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you notice something that doesn’t seem right for you.

Within the UK, there is an NHS breast screening programme for women from the ages of 50 to 71, where you will be invited to have a mammogram (scan of the breast) every three years. Although a mammogram can pick up internal changes in breast density, and other possible indicators of breast cancer, it’s important to check your breasts regularly before then and go and see a doctor if you notice anything unusual – which is where breast self-exam comes in.

At The Harley Medical Group we are committed to ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients, and have put together a simple guide to breast self-exam to help you familiarise yourself with what is normal for you and your body.

What is a breast self-exam?

Early diagnosis of breast cancer is important, and breast self-exam can aid this. It involves regularly examining your breasts on your own (using your eyes and hands), and in combination with other physical screening methods like a mammogram, ultrasound or MRI it can increase the odds of early breast cancer detection.

The main benefit of breast self-exam is that it is a convenient, no-cost tool. It can be used at any age and on a regular basis, meaning that there is no need for younger women to wait until they are 50 to begin checking their breasts.

Although in most cases changes to the size of your breasts are as a result of hormonal changes (which will naturally correct on their own), if your breasts start to appear uneven or if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should visit your doctor to get them checked:

  • Swelling in one of your breasts
  • Pain in your chest area
  • Nipple discharge
  • A one-sided lump on one of your breasts that has suddenly appeared

How to do a breast self-exam:

For most women, the easiest way to feel their breasts is during or after a shower when their skin is wet and slippery.

A breast self-exam involves five steps:

  1. Start by standing with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips, and look at your breasts in the mirror. You should check that:
    • Your breasts are their usual size, shape, and colour
    • Your breasts are evenly shaped and there is no visible distortion or swelling
    • There is no dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
    • Your nipple hasn’t changed position or become inverted (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
    • There isn’t any redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.
  2. Next, look to see if the same changes occur when you raise your arms.
  3. Still looking in the mirror, check for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this might be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
  4. Now lie down and feel your breasts with your hands. Use your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. It’s important to use a firm, smooth touch, keep your fingers flat and together in a circular motion, and you should cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side.
  5. For the last step, you should then sit or stand and feel your breasts again, repeating the instructions in step four above.

Summary

Breast self-exam is extremely important as it not only helps you to get to know your body and what is normal for you, but it can also help to detect any changes that you should speak to your doctor about.

A good tip is to make sure you have a routine, by examining your breasts on a regular basis, you will learn more about them and it will become easier for you to tell if something has changed.

Although at The Harley Medical Group we don’t perform any breast reconstruction due to breast cancer, and our focus is only on the aesthetic procedure, for our clients we understand that caring about your body and health starts with us. Therefore, taking a few minutes to observe your breast is an amazing sign of self-respect.

For more information about breast cancer, please visit the following websites:

NHS
Breast Cancer UK

Posted October 1, 2021
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