Seven signs of breast cancer and how to check for them.

 

Regular breast examinations are so important to keep track of any changes. Never done one before? Spend some time feeling your breast all-over to get an idea of what it normally feels like. Then check one week a month, such as the week after your period.

To start, stand in front of a mirror and look for any immediate changes, such as the shape, puckering or dimpling in the skin, changes to the nipple or any discharge.

Then, with one hand by your side, use the flats of your fingers to to gently massage and check all around your breasts, making sure to follow the tissue up to the underarm and under the boob. See the video above for a simple demonstration.

Breast check

Image: iStock

But it's about more than just feeling for lumps - here are the seven signs to look out for.

1.Dimples or puckering.

Dimples are a significant sign of breast cancer yet one that many women are unaware of. Thankfully, due to women like Lisa Royle and more recently Claire Warner sharing warnings to #CheckYourDimple, awareness is slowly increasing.

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Notice either of these? Make an appointment at the doctors to get it checked out, just in case.

2. Nipple changes.

Behind the nipples is a common location for tumours, which can often change the way it looks and feels. If your nipple is inverted, flattened or indented (and it wasn't like that previously) get it checked.

Breast cancer can also reduce sensitivity of the nipples. (Post continues after gallery.)

3. Discharge.

Unless you're breastfeeding, any discharge from your nipples should be looked at by a doctor as it may be caused by a tumour near the milk duct. The skin of the nipple may also become crusty, scaly or inflamed.

4.Itchiness.

According to Cancer Research UK, itchiness is a rare but important sign of inflammatory breast cancer. In this type of cancer, the area of skin over the tumour can become inflamed, red, painful and itchy. A condition associated with breast cancer called Paget's disease of the nipple, can also cause itchiness.

It may very will be just a skin condition but if you're at all concerned, get it checked.

Image: iStock

5. Upper back, shoulder or neck pain.

It's not just in the breasts - sometimes breast cancer can be felt in the shoulders or back, which means it can easily be confused with sore or tender muscles. The difference is that stretching or changing position doesn't help with the pain, manifesting as a deep ache or throbbing. If your back pain stays despite rest, stretching or physical therapy, see a doctor.

6. Your breast changes shape or size.

Enlist your partner with this one. Tissue growth might affect the shape or size of your breast, so take note in the mirror when you're dressing and undressing to spot any changes, however minor. If something is different, see your doctor.

7. Swelling in your armpit.

Feeling sore under your arms? If you feel a lump or spot in the armpit area that lingers for a week or more, see your doctor. The lump will feel hard, tender and won't move when you touch it. This is where breast cancer usually spreads first, due to lymphatic fluid that drains from the breast. Swelling may also appear under the collarbone.

Finally...

Remember - finding one or more of these signs doesn't automatically mean you have breast cancer but tracking changes with regular checks will increase your chances thanks to early detection if it is. If you're concerned at all by any changes in your breasts, keep peace of mind and go see a doctor or specialist.

Image: Getty/iStock

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