Much like finding a well-fitted bra getting a smear test after our 25th birthday- checking our boobs is one of the things we must do as women. In the UK, 1 in 8 of us will experience breast cancer in our lifetime, and only a third of us actively check our breasts for lumps, bumps, and other abnormalities. Doesn’t bear thinking about.
However, talking about it and being able to identify symptoms quickly is key- and sharing tips on how to self-examine could save a friend, a colleague, and a girl we met in the toilets at uni. Cancer doesn’t discriminate against people with boob jobs, but the signs and symptoms can certainly be recognised, caught early and treated all the same.
Get out your boobies, tatas, lady lumps, melons (or whatever great nickname you’ve given them) … it’s time to get up close and personal for Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is all about getting to grips with your own boobies, knowing how they look and feel- and what’s normal for you. Although your breasts may change at a certain time of the month, as you age, and after you’ve had children, it’s important to recognise the difference between these changes and the nasty ones outlined during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Before you go ahead and self-examine, it’s important to wait until 6 weeks after your boob job, when they’re fully recovered. By this point, you’ll be able to recognise scar tissue from regular tissue, making it easier to find any hard bits that shouldn’t be there.
Here’s 8 quick & easy checks you can do at home (whether you’ve had a boob job or not!)
1. Stand in front of a mirror or lay flat on your back
2. Raise your left arm, bending at the elbow, and rest it against the top of your head
3. First look at your left breast to recognise any swelling, changes in how your breasts look such as asymmetry, skin discoloration or inversions of the nipples
4. Place your hands on your hips, press in firmly and repeat the same checks
5. Working like a clock face, use three middle fingers in a circular motion all the way around the breast, checking for lumps in the breast tissue. Start from a 12-o clock position and work your way to 9-o clock. The closer you feel towards the nipple, the more of your glands you will be able to feel and examine.
6. Make your way up to the armpit area and check the tissue around the lymph nodes. To make this check more effective, clench your fists together tightly in front of you until you can recognise the `V` shape of your large breast muscle. You want to be feeling around the lymph nodes directly behind it. Your lymph nodes will feel like little peas on a string.
7. Feel around and on top of the nipple for lumps, and give them a gentle squeeze to check for discharge
8. Repeat each step for the right breast
We asked Mr Sulaiman, one of Transform’s top surgeons, for advice on how to examine the breasts with implants in. He said: “Breast examination is the same with implants as it is without. We divide the breast into 4 parts: 2 upper (inner and outer) and 2 lower (inner and outer). We examine the parts of the breast with the finger tips in a clockwise fashion, and then we go over the same areas using the palm of the hand. Because the implants are placed either in front or behind the muscle and away from the breast tissues, any defects with the breast tissue can still be detected. If you have any doubts at all, call your GP”. Unlike medical doctors, your surgeon will be able to give you advice on abnormalities concerning the implants themselves.
We’ll say it once, we’ll say it a thousand times over. If you notice any changes in your breasts after checking them over yourself, call your GP straight away. Getting an early diagnosis is vital, and this is especially true with breast cancer as it’s the most common type found in women.
If you’ve had a boob job, it’s important to let the nurses know before they carry out your mammogram (breast x-ray). Usually, they adjust the positioning of the machine so they can get a better view of your breast tissue beneath the implants. Women with breast implants can now be screened at NHS mobile units, too.
Many people associate breast cancer with finding a lump, but there are other signs and symptoms to look out for¹. If you come across any of the below- take a deep breath, try not to panic and pick up the phone to your GP. The signs of breast cancer include:
Phew! It's a lot of information to take in, we know. Top tips? Get to know your own boobies, share what you know on how to check boobies and always go to your GP at the first sign of an abnormality.