The 10-Minute Health Check That Could Save Your Life

Amy Lawrenson

Breast cancer is likely to affect us all at some point in our lifetime, whether directly or through a friend or relative being diagnosed. One in eight women in the UK develops breast cancer in their lifetime, with one person being diagnosed every 10 minutes, according to Breast Cancer Care. And while nine in 10 women do survive breast cancer, over 99% of new breast cancer cases are in women.

With statistics like that, it’s worth taking preventative measures where possible, and one of those is to check your breasts. We called on our resident GP, Jane Leonard, MD, to reveal how to check your breasts at home. That way if you notice anything out of the ordinary, you can point it out to your doctor. As Leonard says, “You know your body best and are the most qualified person to pick up any changes.”

Keep scrolling for this doctor-approved guide to checking your breasts.

BreastCancer.org recommends doing a breast self-exam once a month to get used to it. Some professionals worry that a BSE can cause patients to worry unnecessarily; not Dr. Leonard: “As a doctor, particularly a female doctor, I can’t encourage my female patients enough when it comes to self-examination of their breasts,” she tells us. “The problem is that many conditions may not have specific symptoms such as pain, or lumps. Some can be as subtle as skin changes or mild discomfort. It’s up to you to get to know your body so you will be the first person pick up anything of change or report it to your doctor. Taking this one small step can be life-saving.”

Keep reading for Dr. Leonard’s tips for breast examination at home.

 

look

This is easiest to do looking straight ahead in the mirror with your shoulders in a neutral position. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they look symmetrical?
  • Are there any skin changes?
  • Is the nipple in the same position? Any signs of nipple inversion?
  • Is there any fluid/blood leaking from the nipple?

Now raise your arms up to the sides of your head, and look for the same points in this position. 

Red flags to report to your doctor:

  • Visible lumps
  • Skin puckering/dimpling
  • Nipple inversion
  • Redness/rash of the skin
  • Nipple discharge
 

feel

Keep your fingers together and your palm down, firmly but gently press down and move your hand around the breast in a circular motion.

Divide your breast into four quarters and make sure you cover each area. Make sure you feel up into your under arm area. Feel each breast in turn and do it both sitting and then lying down.

Red flags to report to your doctor:

  • Any lumps—both single lumps or lumpy area
  • Any lumps in you underarm area

Next up, here's what to do after sex to ensure your reproductive health is 10/10.

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