Breast checks


Being familiar with the look and feel of your breasts makes it easier to notice when any changes occur. What to do, what to look for when you conduct a breast check and when to have a mammogram is important for every woman to know.

Breast checks

Breast awareness

If you are familiar with the way your breasts look and feel, it will make it easier to notice if any changes occur. From your 20s onwards, do the following checks once a month:

  What to do Why
First
  1. Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips and shoulders straight. Look at the shape, colour and size of your breasts and nipples.
  2. Next, while still looking in the mirror, raise your arms in the air and look for the same things – shape, colour and size of your breasts and nipples.

A visual check of your breasts will help you to see:

  • the contours of your breasts
  • any changes to their usual shape and colour
  • any discharge from the nipple
  • any redness, rash or swelling.
Next Feel your breasts while you are under the shower. This is personal choice, but some women prefer to feel their breasts when they are wet and slippery as it helps them to notice any changes.
Then

Feel your breasts while lying down with your arm bent at the elbow and resting above your head. Stretch your hands so your palms and fingers are flat like a plate – this will allow you to feel without poking your breasts.

Make sure you feel the entire breast area from your collarbone to your tummy, and include your armpits.

This will allow you to feel without poking your breasts. It is another helpful way to look for:

  • lumps
  • areas that are painful
  • skin that is:
    • dimpled
    • flattened
    • different from before.
 

breast awareness checks

If you detect a new lump, don't panic. Research shows that 9 in 10 breast lumps are not cancer.

When to see your doctor

You should see your doctor about:

  • new lumps
  • new lumpiness
  • changes in the shape of your breast
  • changes in the colour of your breast
  • changes in the nipple
  • discharge from your nipple
  • puckering or dimpling of breast skin
  • any persistent breast pain
  • any persistent nipple or breast itching or rash.

Mammograms

Breast X-ray screening can show breast changes that are too small for you or your doctor to feel.

Your age When to have a mammogram Other information
Younger than 40 years Regular screening mammograms are not recommended.

In younger women, the breast tissue is denser and it is more difficult to differentiate between normal and abnormal breast tissue.

40-49 years BreastScreen Australia offers free screening mammograms every two years.

Reminders to have a screening may not be sent to you – it depends which state you live in.

50-69 years
  • It is recommended you have a mammogram every two years
  • BreastScreen Australia offers free screening mammograms.
  • Breast cancer is most common in women over 50
  • Screening mammography has the greatest benefit for this age group
  • Reminders to have a screening are sent to you.
70 years or older
  • BreastScreen Australia offers free screening mammograms every two years
  • Reminders are sent to women aged 70-75.

Whether you have a screening mammogram will depend on:

  • your general health
  • whether you have any other diseases or conditions
  • your personal preference.

Some women prefer private breast screening. If you would like to find out what private services are available near you, ask your doctor.

Breast implants

If you have breast implants, screening is not harmful. Just let your doctor and screening centre know you have implants before a mammogram is performed.

Arranging a mammogram

BreastScreen Australia is for women who have no obvious breast symptoms.

To arrange a screening mammogram, visit BreastScreen Australia. No doctor referral is necessary.

If you are concerned about a breast lump or tenderness or any other symptoms, see your doctor as soon as you can.

Last updated 02 November 2018 — Last reviewed 30 October 2018

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at October 2018.

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