Breast self-examination: An illustrated guide for mums
This article has clear instructions with accompanying images on how to conduct a breast self-examination.
Breast cancer can be deadly if not caught and treated on time, with more than 25% of all cancers in women being breast cancer.
In Singapore, over 1,800 women were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2010 and 2014 each year, according to the National Cancer Centre Singapore.
Breast cancer occurs when there is abnormality present in breast cells and they divide without control or order, unlike normal cells which divide and produce in a systematic manner. When this unorderly division occurs, extra tissue is produced, which creates a mass called a tumour. Such tumours can be cancerous or benign and the majority of breast cancers start in the milk ducts.
While going for regular mammograms is one way women can detect breast cancer in its early stages, there is another, more simple method you can use to check for lumps in the privacy of your own home: breast self-examination.
This article will take you through the steps of examining your breasts for lumps. A breast self-examination should only take about 15 minutes to complete and should be done once a month.
Remember - do not do a breast self-examination just before the start of your period as your breasts may be tender and slightly swollen during this time.
Lie down with your left arm placed under your head. Examine your left breast with your right hand. Move gently over the entire breast with your three middle fingers placed flat. Using small, circular motions, feel for any lumps, thickening or small knots.
Use different levels of pressure – light, medium and firm – to carefully check your whole breast, from your collarbone right down to the ribs below your breast.
Repeat this process with your right breast.
Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips.
Look carefully for lumps, new differences in shape or size and dimpling of the skin on your breasts.
Raise each arm and carefully check under them for lumps.
Remember that if your body is fighting an infection, your lymph nodes may be enlarged and you might feel this while examining your under-arm.
If this is the case, it's still best to seek a medical opinion to find out why your lymph nodes are enlarged.
Finally, squeeze each nipple gently with your thumb and index finger.
If there is any discharge or you find a lump in this, or the previous steps of breast self-examination, you will need to speak to your healthcare provider without delay.