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Being Breast Aware

Being breast aware is one of the important duties to make sure you are healthy. Being breast aware means to familiarize yourself with your breasts and be aware of the changes that occur to your breasts over a lifetime. You should know how your breasts generally look and feel and you should be able to discern any changes to your breast early on.

Breast self-examination does not have any set rules; however, you should allow time to check your breasts on a routine basis. The rationale of being breast aware is to make you familiar about the appearance, shape, and feel of your breasts, so that you will be able to notice Any Change from the Normal You.

What to look for
The change in your breast could be a lump or thickened tissue, or a difference in the visual appearance that you had not noticed before.

  • During breast examination, you should look and feel for
  • Variation in the breast shape or size
  • Change in the direction of the nipple
  • Pulling in or retraction of the nipple
  • Discharge from the nipple; not breast milk
  • Persistent rash on the breast
  • Inflammation, redness or hot spots
  • Ulcers or sores which do not heal over a period of time
  • Any lump or thickening that was not noticed before
  • Swelling or shrinkage of a part or all of the breast
  • Lumps or thickening in the armpit
  • Swelling or pain in the upper arm
  • Orange peel texture to the skin of the breast

How to look
Firstly, remove your upper garments and stand in front of a good-sized well-lit mirror.

  • Keep your arms by your side and look at your breasts
  • Look at the your breast size and shape
  • Look at the nipple area
  • Look at the skin texture

Feel your breasts often using your hands, when showering or while dressing.
Your breast tissue extends from your collarbone to your “bra-line” and around the armpits. Your breast shape, size and the way your breasts feel changes with your monthly period, pregnancy status, age, and weight.

Important
After having noticed any changes in your breast, it is necessary to consult your physician for a complete breast examination at the earliest possible. Your physician may ask you to come back another time during your menstrual cycle, or refer you to a breast clinic for a more detailed examination. Not every breast change is associated with cancer, but it does require follow-up for investigation and treatment.

Please remember:

  • Know what is normal for you
  • Know what changes to look and feel for
  • Look and feel your breasts routinely
  • Report any changes to your physician at the earliest
  • Attend routine breast screenings, especially if you are aged 50 or over

Summary

Be Breast Aware
Irrespective of your age, you should look at and feel your breasts regularly. Breast examination does not need any special procedure, and no method is considered better than others. However, some women prefer to use a systematic approach. Consult your physician immediately, if you notice any unusual changes in your breasts. Being breast aware is essential even if you are regularly undergoing screening through mammograms.

Have Regular Screening Mammograms
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued new mammogram guidelines stating if you are 50-74 years with average risk of breast cancer, it is advised for you to have a screening mammogram every 2 years. However, the American Cancer Society continues to recommend annual mammography beginning at age 40 for average risk women. Screening mammograms are not recommended for women under 40 years except the unusual candidates with high-risk family history. Talk to your physician to decide what is best for your particular situation.