How to check your breasts properly – and why it’s so important

Regularly checking your breasts for any abnormal changes could save your life. Here’s how to get started.

Regularly checking your breasts is one of the most important things you can do for your health – but despite this, many of us still struggle to find the time in our busy schedules to give our boobs a proper check-up.

That’s according to new research commissioned by the leading charity Breast Cancer Now ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), which found that two in five (41%) UK women do not check their breasts regularly, with one in five (18%) saying they lacked the confidence to do so.

While it may seem scary to check your breasts for any abnormal changes on a monthly basis, knowing your ‘normal’ – aka, how your breasts typically look and feel – can allow you to spot any changes quickly and report them to your GP.   

And when it comes to breast cancer – a condition that will affect an estimated one in seven women in their lifetime, according to Cancer Research UK – that early detection is crucial in ensuring a good chance of recovery. 

So, what is the right way to check your breasts, and how often should you be doing it? Keep reading to check out everything you need to know.

How to check your breasts properly 

First off, it’s important to remember that breasts come in all different shapes, sizes and designs, so checking your breasts isn’t about comparing yours to a stock image – it’s about knowing what ‘normal’ both feels and looks like for you.

As Kris Hallenga, founder of CoppaFeel, previously told Stylist: “All boobs are different and nobody knows your body better than you do. So make sure you check once a month, using whatever method you are comfortable with.”

It’s also worth noting that your breasts look and feel different at different times of the month depending on your menstrual cycle, so make sure you get accustomed with your body’s normal patterns and check your boobs at similar times of the month. And remember that breast tissue goes right up to your collarbone and into your armpit, so it’s important to check these areas, too.

Once you’ve worked out what normal looks like for you, you’re in prime position to notice any changes. According to the NHS, we should be on the lookout for:

  • a change in the size, outline or shape of your breast
  • a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling
  • a new lump, thickening or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that is different from the same area on the other side
  • nipple discharge that’s not milky
  • bleeding from your nipple
  • a moist, red area on your nipple that doesn’t heal easily
  • any change in nipple position, such as your nipple being pulled in or pointing differently
  • a rash on or around your nipple
  • any discomfort or pain in one breast, particularly if it’s a new pain and doesn’t go away (although pain is only a symptom of breast cancer in rare cases)

Finally, if you notice any change – no matter how small – go and get it checked out by your GP. 

For a visual guide on how to check your boobs, you can check out our video tutorial above. And for more information, visit the NHS website.

This article was originally published on 27 August 2020 and has since been updated throughout.

Image: Getty

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