Self Breast Check
An evidence-based resource helping empower our community to embrace self-breast checks confidently, gain the knowledge to make more informed decisions and support their loved ones on the path to better breast health.
Understanding Your Body
A recent Pink Hope survey has revealed significant challenges surrounding self-breast checks, particularly among women in the Gen X and Millennial generations. These challenges primarily revolve around forgetfulness and body image concerns, particularly related to breast shape and size. Notably, a striking 44% of Gen X women expressed lower body image confidence compared to other generations.
Our survey clearly indicates a strong link between low body image confidence and a decrease in the frequency of self-breast checks. This underscores the fact that reduced confidence significantly prevents the willingness to perform regular self-checks.
Our commitment is to shift this narrative. We aim to empower you with the knowledge and confidence necessary to proactively approach self-breast checks, ensuring that no one feels uncertain or misses a check again.
The female breast contains glandular tissue (breast lobes, lobules, and ducts) and fatty tissue. The glandular tissue produces milk, and the fatty tissue provides shape and support. The breast also contains lymphatic vessels and nodes that help fight infection and remove waste products from the blood. These nodes can be found under your arm, near your breasts, above the collarbone and chest, among many other areas of your body.
Knowing your body and your normal helps you confidently spot any changes that may pop up throughout your lifetime.
Breast cancer symptoms can vary for each individual, and some may not have any obvious signs. Here’s what to look out for:
- Lump or thickening in the breast or underarm area - often the first symptom of breast cancer, and it may feel like a hard or painless lump.
- Change in the size or shape of the breast - includes swelling, redness, or skin irritation.
- Nipple discharge - may be a clear, milky, or bloody fluid that leaks from one or both nipples.
- Inverted nipple - the nipple may turn inward instead of sticking out.
- Changes in the breast’s skin texture - may include dimpling, puckering, or a rash on the nipple or surrounding area and may resemble the same texture as an orange peel.
- Swelling in all or part of the breast - may occur even if there is no distinct lump.
Taking charge of your breast health is an empowering act of self-care. Having a regular self-breast check routine helps you stay on top of any abnormal changes and allows you to have confident conversations with your doctor. As soon as you notice any changes, don’t hesitate and get checked as soon as possible.
How Do I Check?
How often should I check my breasts?
Consistently practising self-breast checks is essential for keeping a close watch on your breast health and spotting any changes early. To lighten your mental load and simplify your self-breast check routine, consider enrolling in Pink Hope's self-breast check tool here.
By signing up, you'll receive automated email and SMS reminders every six weeks, ensuring you stay proactive and on top of your breast health.
- Watch our 'How to self-breast' guide
- Mirror check - Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms pressing firmly on your hips to flex your chest muscles. Look for changes in your breasts’ size, shape, or contour. You want to look for dimpling, puckering, or skin bulging.
- Raised arms - Raise your arms above your head and look for the same changes.
- Fluid check - Look in the mirror for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood).
- Lie down & get comfy - Lie flat on your back with a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. With your left hand, use the pads of your three middle fingers (keep them flat and together) to feel for lumps or thickening. Repeat on the left breast using your right hand. Make sure to check the entire breast and armpit area, pressing down with light, medium, and firm pressure to check the different levels of breast tissue while moving in a circular motion from the outer breast to the nipple.
If you’re more of a visual learner, head to Pink Hope’s new Self-Breast Check instructional video here where we’ll guide you through the steps alongside a variety of ways to self-check.
Stand up or sit down - To complete the checking process, feel for any changes while standing up (you can also sit down if it’s more comfortable and accessible for you.) Many women find the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Lather up the girls and repeat the same steps as above.
Self-Breast Check vs Clinical Exam
Self-breast checks and clinical breast exams are essential to breast health monitoring, but they serve different purposes. Self-breast checks empower individuals to be actively involved in their breast health by regularly examining their breasts for any changes, lumps, or abnormalities. These checks are convenient, can be done at home, and promote self-awareness.
Clinical breast exams are conducted by trained healthcare professionals during routine check-ups or medical visits. These exams provide a more thorough and skilled check, as healthcare providers are trained to identify subtle changes that might not be easily detectable during self-checks.
To learn more about clinical exams, click here.
Self-breast checks are essential for empowered breast health. If you have breast implants, you should still continue to perform regular self-breast checks and get to know what normal looks and feels like for you.
When checking your breasts with implants, here’s what you need to know:
Get to know your implants - Understand the location and feel of your implants so you can distinguish them from breast tissue during self-checks.
Check all areas of your breast - Gently examine all areas of your breast tissue, including the upper, middle, and lower regions. Remember that breast implants are usually placed below the chest muscle or glandular tissue.
Don’t forget the underarm & collarbone - Continue to include the underarm areas and collarbone in your self-checks, as breast tissue extends into these regions even with implants.
Different positions - Just like self-breast checks without implants, you should stand in front of a mirror, sit, lie down, and raise your arms above your head to ensure a complete check.
Take note of changes - Notice any changes, unusual sensations, new scars or firmness after surgery and report them to your doctor.
Sam, 33, survivor of breast cancer
In February 2023, Sam discovered an unfamiliar lump on the right side of her breast. With a family history of breast cancer, Sam's concern prompted her to act quickly. She sought medical attention and underwent an ultrasound after her GP recognised the potential risk.
Breast Cancer In Men
Although breast cancer is often associated with women, it’s still important to shine a light on the unspoken experience of men affected by this disease, given there is no recommended screening for men in Australia.
Challenging the Stigma
A breast cancer diagnosis can trigger various emotions, including fear, uncertainty, and coping with societal perceptions of it as a ‘women’s disease.’ Building a support system with family, friends, and support groups and sharing men’s stories is essential in helping men navigate their breast cancer experience.
*Breast cancer treatment and diagnosis are the same for men and women. Click here to learn more.
Signs & Symptoms in Men
Men and women both have breast tissue, so breast cancer symptoms are similar but may be more noticeable due to the lower amount of breast tissue in men. Here’s what to look out for:
- A lump or mass in the breast or underarm area.
- Noticeable changes in the size or shape of one or both breasts.
- Any changes in the skin of the breast, such as redness, dimpling, or puckering, resembling an orange peel.
- Changes in the nipple, such as inversion (pulling inward), discharge or crusting.
- Persistent breast pain or tenderness.
- Unexplained swelling in the breast or surrounding area.
- Spontaneous discharge from only one nipple, particularly if bloody or clear.
- Persistent itching or irritation in the breast or nipple area.
- Thickening of the skin on the breast or nipple.
- Changes in sensation, such as numbness or tingling in the breast or nipple area.
- Age - The risk of breast cancer increases with age, with most cases diagnosed in men over 60.
- Family History - Men with a family history of breast cancer, especially close relatives like mothers, sisters, or daughters, may have a higher risk of developing the disease.
- BRCA Genetic Mutations - Inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can increase the risk of breast cancer in both men and women.
- Klinefelter Syndrome - Men with Klinefelter syndrome, a genetic condition where they have an extra X chromosome (XXY instead of XY), have a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Radiation Exposure - Previous radiation treatment to the chest area, often for other cancers, can increase men’s breast cancer risk.
- Liver Diseases - Certain liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in men.
- High Levels of Estrogen - Men with conditions that lead to increased estrogen levels in the body, such as obesity, may have a higher risk of breast cancer.
- Alcohol Consumption - Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in men.
- Testicular Conditions - Certain testicular conditions, such as undescended testicles or testicular injury, may raise the risk of breast cancer.
- Hormonal Treatments - Certain hormonal treatments, such as hormone therapy for prostate cancer, can increase men’s risk of breast cancer.
Myths About Breast Cancer
Contraception and Breast Cancer
Lifestyle Factors & Breast Cancer
Normal vs. Abnormal Breast Changes
Understanding Breast Cancer
Get Your Breast Check Reminder Now
Share this page with your friends and family