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How to perform a self-examination for breast cancer

A 5-step guide to performing a breast check

A woman studying her reflection in a mirror
A woman studying her reflection in a mirror

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Aussie women, with 45 of us diagnosed with the disease every single day.

And, early detection is key to increasing your chance of beating this form of cancer, so ladies it’s never more important to get abreast of your… well, breasts than now!

Whether you’re in your 20s, 30s or over 40, Pink Hope recommends doing a self-examination every month, in addition to a clinical breast examination (performed by a health professional).

Credit: nib health insurance

To help you put your breast foot forward, we’ve compiled a summary of Pink Hope’s guide on what we believe is an essential life skill for any female – breast self-examinations.

How to perform a breast self-examination:

1. Find a mirror

Before you start your examination, it’s important that you can see your breasts clearly, so find a large mirror in a space with good lighting. Look closely at each breast and check for any skin abnormalities like puckering, dimpling, scaliness or nipple discharge.

2. Start stretching

Now, it’s time to get stretching while watching your breasts to check for any changes in their shape or contour. Start by clasping your hands behind your head and then pressing your hands forward.

For the next stretch, put your hands on your hips and push while tilting toward the mirror. While doing this, pull your shoulders and elbows forward.

3. Get handsy

Give your nipples a gentle squeeze and check for any discharge.

4. Take a break

Move away from the mirror and find a spot (your bed is a comfy option!) to lie on your back with one arm over your head and a pillow or towel under your shoulder. Use your hands to firmly check each breast, feeling for lumps. Press your fingers into the tissue, working in small areas to make sure that you’re being thorough. Don’t forget the area between your breast and underarm and continue all the way up to your collarbone and over to your shoulder.

Our tip: Sometimes a bit of moisturiser will help your hands glide over the skin easier.
Need a visual demonstration? This video from MACMA is equal parts hilarious and helpful.

Credit: TrendBites

5. Know the symptoms of breast cancer

If you notice any abnormalities or changes to your breasts, or if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to arrange an appointment with your doctor:

  • Swelling

  • Pain

  • Warmth or redness

  • Change in size or shape

  • Dimpling

  • Itchy, scaley rash

  • A nipple that becomes inverted or flat

  • Discharge

  • Bumps that look like a bug bite

  • Lumps

Unfortunately, there’s no proven way to prevent breast cancer, but you can reduce your risk by cutting down on alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. If you’ve got a family history of breast cancer, it’s even more important to check your breasts regularly in addition to engaging a qualified health professional to perform a clinical breast examination.

It’s also important to keep protected. At nib, we offer a number of covers that include benefits for cancer surgery and treatment. If you’re already an nib member, you can find out whether you’re covered using member account, opens in a new tab or by calling 13 16 42.

Not an nib member? You can get a quote online in just minutes.

The information contained in this article is provided as general information only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatment. For personalised medical advice, always see your qualified health professional.

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