How faithfully do you do your monthly breast self-exams, and how important are they?

October is breast cancer awareness month; a reminder to South Africans to take testing and self- examination seriously. Breast cancer is the fifth-leading cause of death in woman worldwide and the most prevalent cancer amongst women in South Africa. In fact, according to the South African National Cancer Registry 1 in 29 women in South Africa will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Startling statistics!

Did you know that when detected early, breast cancer has a 98% survival rate? Also, are you aware of the fact that nearly 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer DO NOT have a family history, and that small healthy changes to your lifestyle could reduce your chance of getting breast cancer by nearly 40%?

So ladies, off course there are no guarantees that you won’t develop breast cancer, but limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and not smoking will give you a better chance at staying healthy.

Early detection of the condition can lead to effective treatment and a positive prognosis. Although breast self-examination is not a substitute for mammography or regular check-ups by a healthcare practitioner, doctors believe that there is value in women being familiar with their own breasts, so they understand what’s normal and promptly report changes.

How to self-examine your breasts

No one knows your body better than you do and everyone will have their own way of touching and looking for changes; there’s no special technique and you don’t need any training to do this on a regular basis.

Look at your breasts and feel each breast and armpit up to your collarbone. Try to use the palm of the finger instead of the finger tips. You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast and under each armpit. You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side, and also with them raised.

Breast changes to look out for

See your GP if you notice any of the following changes:

  • A change in the size, outline or shape of your breast.
  • A change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling.
  • A new lump, thickening, or bumpy area in one breast or armpit that is different from the same area on the other side.
  • Nipple discharge that is not milky.
  • Bleeding nipples.
  • A moist red area or a rash around your nipple.
  • A change in nipple position or a nipple pointing differently.
  • Any pain or discomfort in one breast.

Do a monthly breast examination, every month (schedule it for the first day of menstruation if you’re still menstruating), and schedule a clinical breast exam with your healthcare provider once a year. If you’re over 50 make sure to schedule a mammography screening every other year.

So, gather your girlfriends around, spread the word of breast self-examination and save breasts and lives.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.