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Be Breast Aware

The c word. Many are too scared to talk about it. Some are too scared to say it. We're all scared to have it. Cancer.

Our fears are valid, it is a scary disease but why don't we talk about it in terms of the other c word. Curable. Detecting cancer early saves lives. Fact. It can very often be curable particularly when found during the early stages of disease and so we at SHAKE Africa want to you to have the knowledge to allow you to stay aware of your breast health.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and we want to empower you to be breast aware and take control of your health. We've produced a step-by-step guide on how to perform a thorough breast examination on yourself.

Background information

Firstly, It's important to remember to have your breasts examined annually by a qualified healthcare professional and to perform your own personal self-examination every month. This allows you to get to know your breasts properly and means you're more likely to notice if anything changes or doesn't seem right!

The best time to do a self-exam is a few days after your period when your breasts are least likely to be swollen. As for many women, you may find yourself forgetting so why not set a reminder in your phone. Alternatively, some period calendars are really handy and remind you to do it too so you can try downloading one of these.

1. Performing an exam in the shower

  • Use the pads of your finger and move around your entire breast in a circular pattern - be very systematic (e.g. go from the outside to the centre) to make sure you don’t leave any areas out

  • Ensure you check the entire breast and armpit area

  • Check both breasts feeling for any lumps, thickening, or hardened knots

  • If you notice any changes or lumps be sure to have them evaluated by your healthcare provider.

2. Performing an exam in the mirror

  • Look for any changes in the skin, any swellings or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples.

  • Next, raise your arms high overhead, still inspecting and looking for the changes mentioned in the previous point

  • Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles.

  • Ensure you look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.

  • Remember for many women, the left and right breasts will not exactly match but still look for differences between them

3. Performing an exam lying down

  • A breast exam when lying down is great as the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall.

  • Place a pillow under the shoulder on the same side as the breast you will be examining

  • Using your other hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.

  • Use light, medium, and firm pressure.

  • Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps.

So there you have it. We hope you're better informed on how to perform a thorough breast exam.

Ladies, please keep checking and keep an eye out for any changes and if you're worried always seek advice from a health care professional. Remember breast cancer is curable if detected early.

Lots of love from your friends at SHAKE Africa x

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