News & Media

Breast checks: a how-to-guide

02 September 2019

It’s Women’s Health Week, so we thought we’d ask our community health nurse, Corina Christie, for her take on how and why we need to check our breasts.

Woman unhooking bra
IMAGE COURTESY JEAN HAILES

The why is easy: we should be checking our breasts for our own health and our family’s wellbeing. The how is also easy: we just need to remember to check them every month!

First off, some facts about breast cancer. According to Cancer Council Australia:

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second most common cancer to cause death in women (after lung cancer)
  • Both men and women can develop breast cancer
  • In 2016, 2,976 women and 28 men died of breast cancer
  • The five-year survival rate is 91 per cent with treatment.

Regular, thorough breast checks are the best way to detect cancer early.

When you check your breasts, you get to know how they look and feel, and you’re more likely to notice when something changes. If you notice a lump or spot on your breast, or discharge from your nipples, see your doctor straight away.

Don’t be afraid if you feel a lump. Nine times out of ten it’s not cancer, but early detection will make a huge difference to you and your family, so it’s best to be safe and keep on checking.

When to check, you ask? Check your breasts about a week after your period, when you start your new pill packet or on the first day of every month. Basically you want to check them 12 times a year, so about every month!

And what do you actually check? Look and feel for any changes in the breast tissue. Notice if there are any changes or discharge from your nipples. You can check your breasts in the shower or lying down; it’s a 30 second check and could save your life.

Breast Self Examination Checklist
IMAGE COURTESY WOMENS HEALTH

We all want to keep our breasts healthy, and all it takes is these healthy habits:

  • Eat for your health – it’s best to eat fresh and a wide variety of foods (think fibre, protein, carbs and calcium) including two serves of fruit and five serves of veggies.
  • Limit your alcohol intake: there is no safe level of drinking alcohol as it increases the risk of breast and other cancers, heart disease and early death.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – consult your doctor if you’re worried about your weight.
  • Be physically active – walk, dance, run, cycle (whatever floats your boat) for at least 30 minutes every day of the week.
  • When you turn 40, start attending a free breast screening every two years, and don’t stop. Phone 13 20 50 to make an appointment; it only takes 15 minutes.
  • Check your breasts once a month at home – in the shower or when you wake up!