This month marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer amongst women in Singapore, and according to statistics from the Singapore Cancer Registry, 29.1% of women in Singapore have been diagnosed with the condition.
And while breast cancer typically occurs in women who are 45 and above, it can also affect women in their 20s and 30s.
The good news is, early detection can increase the chances of survival. And while most of us are aware of this, a study amongst 1,005 women in Singapore done by the Breast Cancer Foundation found that only two in five women below the age of 45 perform any form of breast check—be it a self-examination or a medical check at the doctor’s.
According to experts, we—meaning women in their 20s and 30s—should be doing a Breast Self Examination (BSE) once every month. It should be done seven to ten days after the start of your period.
So here’s what should you be looking out for during these BSEs:
- Any lumps, swelling, or thickening
- Changes in the size and shape of your breast
- Changes in the color or skin of your breast, areola, or nipple
- Redness or rashes
- Changes in the nipple, like inversion or retraction
- Nipple discharge or blood
Here are three ways to do a self-examination.
In the shower
- Soap up your hands slightly so it’s slippery. Place your left hand on your hip and use your right hand to check for lumps on your left armpit. Do the same for the right side.
- Then, check for lumps or thickening above and below your collarbone.
- Like in the photo, raise one arm and place your hand behind your head. This will help spread out the breast tissue. Then, use the pads of your fingers to press gently onto your breast in an up-down pattern, from the bra line to your collarbone. Make sure you do this for the whole breast, and repeat for the other side.
While lying down
- Lie down with a small pillow or towel under your left shoulder. Place your left hand behind your head, and then your hand on the top part of your right breast. Your fingers should be placed together and lying flat on the breast. Start moving your hand in small circular motions in a clockwise direction. Once you’ve made the whole round, move an inch closer to the nipple and repeat the motions. Do this until you’ve covered the entire breast, including areas that extend into your pits.
- Then, place your fingers flat on your nipple and gently press inward. Feel beneath for any changes. When pressed, your nipples should move easily.
- Repeat for the other breast.
In the mirror
- Make sure your room is well-lit before you start the examination. Remove your clothes, including your bra.
- Examine your breasts for any changes in size, shape, position or texture. Your breasts may not be equal in shape or size but that’s normal. What you’re looking for are changes, such as puckering, dimpling, swelling or discoloration. Remember to check your nipples for any swelling, peeling or inversion.
- Place your hands on your hips and press down firmly. This will tighten your chest muscles. Then, turn from side-to-side to examine the outer part of your breasts.
- Bend forward, then roll your shoulders and elbows. Your breasts will fall forward, so use this time to look for changes in shape or contour.
- Put your hands together behind your head and press them forward. Turn from side-to-side and examine the outer part of your breasts, including the area underneath.
- Place your thumb and index finger on your nipple and pull outwards. Look for any discharge.
- Repeat for the other breast.
More from CLEO:
Surprising Things That May Cause The Shape Of Your Breasts To Change
Ask An Osteopath: Why Do Large Breasts Cause Back Pain?
What To Do When A Loved One Is Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
Still confused? Here’s a video guide:
Now you know. No more excuses not to feel your breasts!
Additional text: Hidayah Idris