October may be Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it's not just now that you need to be aware of checking your breasts; it's a habit you should be maintaining all year round, no matter your age or family history.
Every year in the UK, around 5,000 women under the age of 45 are diagnosed with breast cancer. When you consider that, along with the fact that 27 percent of breast cancer cases are preventable in the UK, it makes it pretty clear that we should all be checking our boobs at least once a month.
But if the prospect of a self-examination seems daunting, don't worry: we didn't go to med school either. It's actually a lot easier than you think, because there's no right way to check your breasts. There are, however, a few important things you need to remember to look and feel for, so follow our guide and you'll be a pro before you know it.
How often should you check your breasts?
There's no specific number of times per week/month/year that you should be checking your breasts. But breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! like to alert people who subscribe to their free reminder service to give themselves a check once a month.
The main thing is that you self-examine regularly enough to know what's normal for your boobs; that way, you can tell if something has changed, and you can go to a doctor to investigate if it doesn't go away.
What should you be checking for?
One of the biggest misconceptions about breast cancer is that you will get a lump if you develop the disease. While a lump is undoubtedly one of the more common symptoms, this is not the only thing you should be monitoring. Here are a series of things you should be looking and feeling for when you check your breasts:
- Changes in skin texture such as puckering/dimpling
- Nipple discharge
- Nipple inversion and changes in direction
- Swelling in your armpit or around collar bone
- A sudden change in size or shape
- A rash or crusting of the nipple or surrounding area
- Lumps and thickening
- Constant, unusual pain in your breast or armpit
- Make sure you examine right up to your collarbone and into armpits (lifting your arms up will make this easier)
Remember: There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts—as long as you're doing it regularly.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.