Dedicated to the care of breast cancer and all breast conditions
Dr Sarah Rayne is no longer practising in
Johannesburg and this practice is closed.

These pages are for information only,
and current only until 2018
I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer- help!
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I’ve noticed a lump in my breast
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I have breast pain               
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Breast Self-examination  
Every women should get to know what her own breasts feel like and how they can change every month in response to hormones, and during her lifetime in response to pregnancy, life changes and gravity!

Why should I examine my breasts?
When should I examine my breasts?
How do I examine my breasts?
What should I be looking for?
What if I find something wrong?
Why should I examine my own breasts?
Any woman can carry out breast self-examination (BSE) and reduce her risk of missing an abnormality or cancer developing in the breast. BSE can’t stop cancers developing, but studies have shown that when women examine themselves regularly, they are more likely to pick up cancers and other abnormalities at an earlier stage, which may reduce the amount of treatment required and increase the chance of surviving.

All breasts are different and change during your life and during the month. Closer to the period the breast can become firmer, more lumpy and maybe tender, after the period and later in life they may get softer and less dense. There is no normal, only normal for you- and if you get to know what is normal then you will notice any abnormality and get it checked out.
When should I examine my breasts?
Every woman should get used to examining her own breasts once a month. It is good to do it at the same time every month- at a time you will remember. The most constant event of the month for the breast is your period (it might be slightly longer or shorter than one month but that’s ok) so after the period works well. Your breasts will be less tender then too. If you are not seeing periods pick the same day every month. I like the system where you choose the day of the month your birthday falls on because it is easy to remember, but you may choose the first Sunday of the month or the first day.
How do I do a breast self-examination?
The best time to do an exam is what suits you best. You will need to look at yourself so have a mirror nearby. If you have large breasts it will help to lie down. Sometimes some moisturiser will help your hand move over the skin.

You will need to use the palm side of your fingers, held out straight together, to push down gently onto your breast. You want to press your breast onto your ribcage and then you will feel any lumps against your fingers. Try not to grab the breast or squeeze it- this way the breast tissue can feel like lumps even when there are none.

A great way to remember how to do an examination was designed by breast cancer charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer and is based around the letters TLC- reminding us to give the breasts some Tender Loving Care.

First step: (T) Touch

Lie down and stretch your arm away from the body (put your hand behind your head). This stretches the breast out and makes it easier to feel. Feel round the breast, starting beside the armpit and moving round the breast in a circle until you get there again. If you have big breasts you may need to go round more than once!

Then feel into the armpit for any lumps- loosen your hand from behind your head to feel deeply in there.

Second step: (L) Look

Have a look at your breasts in the mirror. Are they symmetrical? Do they look the same or are their new differences between them? Lift your arms over your head and see if both breasts look the same or if one is pulling in a new way.

Look at the nipples too and check for any changes. Don’t squeeze your nipples though- as this can cause problems rather than finding them.

Third step: (C) Check it out!

Get it checked out! If there is something new or worrying about your breasts, see someone about it so that you make sure what you are feeling or seeing is not a problem.
What should you be worried about?
Any new changes in the breast can cause worry. It is important to remember that there is no one symptom or sign that can confirm or rule out cancer. Every new change should be examined and investigated by someone who knows what to look for.

Particularly new changes to look for are:

A new lump (although the vast majority of these will be non-cancerous)

Changes to the skin of the breast and the nipple

A change in shape- check for the nipples pointing in different directions

A discharge from the nipple, especially if it comes without squeezing (don’t squeeze!) and you notice it on your clothes or bra.
What if I find something?
Finding any changes does not mean you have cancer. There are many reasons that the breast cancer change and most of them are completely normal. The breast is made up of a mixture of milk tissue and fat tissue and, depending on how close you are to your period, your breasts sometimes might feel more lumpy than normal, or sometimes you might feel a separate lump. Most lumps are not cancer and often do not need to be taken out.

Simple measure can reap great rewards. Getting to know your breasts and getting into the habit of checking them regularly is important. Consider booking your next mammogram and sonar for the week after your birthday- that way you will be reminded every year that it is time for a check-up!