How to check your breasts

  • Health
  • August 30, 2016
Image: Rob Rothner

Being familiar with the look and feel of your breasts makes it easier to notice when any changes occur.

What to do, what to look for when you conduct a breast check and when to have a mammogram is important for every woman to know.

Image: Stef Mitchell

From your 20s onwards do the following checks once a month.

  1. // Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips and shoulders straight. Look at the shape, colour and size of your breasts. A visual check of your breasts will help you to see: the contours of your breasts, changes to shape and colour, nipple discharge, any redness, rash or swelling.
  2. // Next, while still looking in the mirror raise your arms in the air and look for the same things­ – shape, colour and size of your breasts.
  3. // Feel your breasts while you are under the shower. This is personal choice but some women like to feel their breasts when they are wet and slippery as it helps them to notice any changes.
  4. // Feel your breasts while lying down with your arm bent at the elbow and resting above your head.  Stretch your hands so your palms and fingers are flat like a plate – this will allow you to feel without poking your breasts. Make sure you feel the entire breast area from your collarbone to your tummy and include your armpits. This will allow you to feel without poking your breasts.

When to see your doctor?

You should see your doctor about: new lumps, new lumpiness, changes in the shape of your breast, changes in the colour of your breast, changes in the nipple, discharge from your nipple or any persistent breast pain.

What about mammograms?

Breast X-ray screening can show breast changes that are too small for you or your doctor to feel.

Younger than 40 years

// Regular screening mammograms are not recommended. In younger women the breast tissue is denser and it is more difficult to differentiate between normal and abnormal breast tissue. Instead, an ultrasound may be more helpful.

40-49 years

// BreastScreen Australia offers free screening mammograms every two years. Reminders to have a screening may not be sent to you – it depends which state you live in.

50-69 years

// It is recommended you have a mammogram every two years as breast cancer is most common in women over 50. BreastScreen Australia offers free screening mammograms every two years.

70 years and over

// BreastScreen Australia offers free screening mammograms every two years. Whether you have a screening mammogram will depend on: your general health, and whether you have any other diseases or conditions.

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)