Be breast aware
Breast awareness is a part of general body awareness. It is a process of getting to know about your own breasts and becoming familiar with their appearance. Learning how your breasts feel at different times will help you to know what is normal for you. You can become familiar with your breast by looking and feeling – at a convenient time for you (e.g. while having a bath, shower, when dressing). Being breast aware and knowing what is normal for you will help you to be aware of any changes from normal.
Before menopause normal breasts feel different at different times of the menstrual cycle. Milk-producing tissue in the breast becomes active in the days before menstrual period starts. In some women, breasts at this time feel tender and lumpy, especially near the armpits.
After menopause, activities of milk-producing tissues stop. Normal breasts feel soft, less firm and not lumpy
Changes to look out for
Any change in the outline or shape of the breast, especially those caused by arm movements or by lifting the breasts, any puckering or dimpling of the skin.
Discomfort or pain in one breast that is different from normal, particularly if new and persistent.
Any lumps, thickening or bumpy areas in one breast or armpit which seem to be different from the same part of the other breast and armpit. This is very important if new.
- Nipple discharge, which is new for you and not milky.
- Bleeding or moist reddish areas which do not heal easily.
- Any changes in nipple position – pulled in or pointing differently.
- A nipple rash on or around the nipple.
What to do if you find a change
There can be many reasons for changes in the breast. Most of them are harmless but all of them need to be checked as there is a small chance that they could be the first sign of cancer. If you are aware of any change in your breasts from what is normal for you, tell your doctor without delay. Remember, you are not wasting anyone’s time. If there is a cancer present, the sooner it is reported, the simpler treatment is likely to be. This offers greater prospects of benefit in terms of quality of life. Likelihood of developing breast cancer increases with ageBreast Cancer-Awareness (Download pdf)