Getting to know your breasts is important. Being breast aware means knowing what’s normal for you so you can spot any unusual changes as soon as possible. Most breast changes are normal but its important to highlight when to seek your GP's advice for an onward referral. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment may be. Its important to be aware that men should also be aware of any changes in their chest area as a very small number of men get breast cancer each year.
Touch Look Check
Checking your breasts only takes a few minutes. There's no special technique and you don’t need training to check your breasts.
Check the whole breast area, including your upper chest and armpits.
Do this regularly to check for changes.
It’s as simple as TLC: Touch Look Check
Touch your breasts: can you feel anything unusual?
Look for changes: does anything look different?
Check any changes with your GP
Picture from Breast Cancer Now (2020)
For more guidance on how to check your breast, head over to the National Breast Cancer Foundation to see their step-by-step guide for checking your breasts.
Breast Changes throughout life:
Changes around your period - Oestrogen and progesterone play a vital part in regulating a woman’s periods. These hormones are responsible for the changes you may notice in your breasts just before your period. Your breasts may feel heavier and fuller. They may also be tender or lumpy. After a period, this usually lessens or disappears altogether, although some women have tender, lumpy breasts all the time. If pain in your breast persists, it would be worth speaking to your GP.
Pregnancy - Breast changes can be an early sign of pregnancy. Many pregnant women feel a change in sensation in their breasts such as tingling and soreness, particularly of the nipples. This is due to increased levels of progesterone and the growth of the milk ducts. The breast and the areola begin to get bigger. The nipple and areola become darker and remain that way during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding - Large amounts of milk are produced to breastfeed a newborn baby and the breasts can change size many times a day according to the baby’s feeding pattern. Nipples can sometimes become sore and cracked, but this generally gets better over time. When breastfeeding stops, the breasts gradually go back to how they were before pregnancy although they may be a different size and less firm than before. To find out more information - take a look at our post on "breast feeding and breast cancer"
During and after Menopause - As oestrogen levels fall during and after the menopause, the breasts may change size, lose their firmness, feel softer and may droop. Lumps around the time of the menopause often turn out to be breast cysts. A cyst is a fluid-filled sac. Tenderness may be due to non-cyclical breast pain, which is pain that is not linked to the menstrual cycle. This may need to be treated with pain relief.
Information sourced from Breast Cancer Now. 2020.