Know Your Body
Learn the steps you need to take… to be in control of your breast and ovarian health.
Knowing your breasts
Knowing the symptoms of breast cancer and doing regular self-examinations (and mammograms and/or MRI if relevant), to determine what is your normal so you can identify any changes is critical to managing your breast health. We are very much about taking awareness out of the picture and making it about “taking action”
We all have different breasts – different sizes, shapes, and with various types of lumps that may come and go. What’s standard for you may not be your friend’s “normal,” but what’s most important are changes.
Questions to consider:
- Do you know what is your normal?
- Do you have dense breast tissue?
- Do you know your risk?
These particular pillars are crucial in ensuring you are “actually” in control of your breast health.
More about breast density
Breast density is important because women with dense breast tissue have an increased risk of breast cancer compared with those with less dense breast tissue.1 There is also an increased risk of breast cancer not being detected by a standard mammogram in women with dense breasts.2-4
While some women’s breasts become less dense with age, others experience little change.1
You may be surprised to learn that breast density isn’t based on how your breasts feel e.g. the size or firmness.1 In fact, breast density is seen only on mammograms.1 Dense breasts have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and less fatty tissue.1
You may like to ask your doctor about your breast density following your next mammogram or breast check. Remember, breast density is very common, and is not abnormal.1
What can you do to ensure you know what is normal for you?
It is important to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your breasts – that is making sure your breasts are their usual size, shape and colour. Touch your breast tissue from multiple angles with varying pressure to feel both the deep and surface layers, from the interior by your ribs to just below the skin. Don’t forget that your breast tissue extends up your collarbone, around to your armpits, and into your breastbone.
There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts for any changes – just look at and feel them regularly. For tips on what to look for and techniques for self-breast examinations see Pink Hope’s resource Feel Your Boobies.
If you notice any of these symptoms that persist or worsen for two-three weeks, or find a change in your breast that is unusual for you see your doctor without delay:
- Swelling or thickening
- Soreness or rash (irritation)
- Warmth, redness or darkening
- Change in size or shape
- Dimpling or puckering of skin
- Itchy, scaly sore or rash on nipple
- Nipple that becomes flat or inverted
- Nipple discharge
- New, persistent pain in one spot (breast or nipple)
- Persistent itching
- A lump, in your breast or underarm (armpit)
Knowing your ovaries
Knowing the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer so you can identify any changes is critical to managing your ovarian health. Symptoms of ovarian cancer are ones that many women have from time to time and mostly will be due to digestive or menstrual complaints or other less serious and more common health problems.
If you notice any of these symptoms that persist or worsen for two-three weeks, see your doctor for a check-up. Remember that most often the problem will not be due to ovarian cancer:
- Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating (this is different to bloating that comes and goes which is usually due to air in the bowel)
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Needing to urinate urgently or often
Other symptoms can include:
- Changes in your bowel habits (new constipation or diarrhoea, bleeding or change in bowel motion or colour)
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Menstrual changes such as bleeding in between periods or after menopause
- Back pain
- Indigestion or nausea
- Pain during intercourse
For tips on learning to know your body and symptoms of ovarian cancer, see Pink Hope’s Know Your Os.
Reference: 1. American Cancer Society. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/mammograms/breast-density-and-your-mammogram-report.html. Accessed June 2017. 2. Skaane P et al. Radiology 2013;267:47–¬56. 3. Rose S et al. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2013;200:1401–8. 4. Ciatto S et al. Lancet Oncol 2013;14:583–9.