Tips for developing the breast awareness habit

You've heard it over and over - if you catch it early, your recovery chances are better - with almost any condition. It's important therefore, that all women perform breast checks regularly.

In Australia, even with a fully implemented mammographic screening program, more than half of breast cancers are diagnosed after investigation of a breast change found by the woman or by her doctor. This emphasises the importance of women being aware of the normal look and feel of their breasts and reporting unusual breast changes.


Breast awareness

Historically in Australia, public health campaigns have promoted specific techniques that women should use to examine their own breasts (‘breast self-examination’).
Current recommendation for women with no symptoms who are at average risk of breast cancer, the Cancer Council Australia says: Be "Breast Aware" by familiarising yourself with the normal look and feel of your breasts. See a doctor immediately if you notice any unusual breast changes. The Cancer Council has adopted this less formal 'Breast Awareness' approach in the absence of proof that routine systematic breast self-examination reduces deaths from breast cancer across the population
Changes to look for include:
  • A new lump or lumpiness especially if it is in one breast
  • A nipple discharge i.e. a spontaneous discharge (liquid) coming out of the nipple
  • A change in the size or shape of the breast or nipple
  • A change in the skin over the breast such as redness or dimpling
  • An unusual persistent pain, especially if it is one breast.
  • Redness or swelling of the breast
Start young! If you can gradually get into a routine that works for you, by the age of 40 you will be doing regular breast awaremess checks and will be very familiar with the shape and feel of your breasts.
A clinical breast examination is a physical examination of the breast done by a health professional. Clinical breast examinations are used along with mammograms to screen women for breast cancer. A clinical breast examination may be part of your regular checkup. Talk with your health professional to determine how often to have a breast examination.