Diagnosis

What happens if a lump is found in your breast? What are the next steps if an examination detects something suspicious? Women with suspected breast cancer want the situation clarified as soon as possible. The Breast Care Centre team looks after patients and provides essential support at every stage of treatment.

  

Self-examination

The best time

This is roughly 8 days after your monthly period, as the breast is softer than before menstruation, making it easier to detect any changes. Women who have gone through the menopause should simply stick to a specific date in the month.

Critical look

Stand in front of a mirror and look at your breast with your arms raised and lowered. Does one breast look bigger than the other? That’s normal. Turn to the left and to the right. Rest your arms on your hips and tense your chest muscles. Lean forward, tensing and relaxing your muscles. Notice any change in the shape or size of the breast. Look carefully at the surface of the skin and check for any areas that are raised, dimpled, reddened, swollen or scaly.
Check for any bloody secretions from the nipple or new dimpling, as well as any signs of inflammation. If you do notice a change, or perhaps even feel a lump, remember that four out of five lumps are harmless. Check the same area in the other breast. If it feels the same, that’s a positive sign that you are dealing with normal breast tissue. If there is no similarity, however, you should inform your doctor. Always remember: you are only looking for changes or differences in your breast, not attempting a diagnosis.

Gentle palpation method

 

The breast extends from the collarbone to the lower breast fold and from the sternum to a line running through the centre of the armpit. Use your right hand to examine your left breast, and vice versa.

 

  

Use the end sections of your first three fingers (index, middle and ring). When examining each area, flatten them and press them down onto the breast using small circular motions no bigger than a coin. Lumps can occur at different depths in the breast. So use gentle pressure in the first circular motion, increase it to medium pressure in the second and strong in the third motion.

 

For this examination it’s best to lie down in a semi-horizontal position. To do so, first turn to the side with your knees drawn to an angle. The turn your shoulders back. This position leaves the breast evenly distributed across the chest, with the nipple forming the highest point.

 

 

Start the examination in the middle of the armpit and guide the fingers up and down in a parallel line. Use the flattened front section of the first three fingers when examining each area of the breast. In each case, use three small circular motions, increasing the pressure each time.

 

 

Finish by examining the regions above and below the collar bone, working along vertical lines.