Check Your Breasts

Anna Hagan, our pharmacist from Allcare Pharmacy Carlingford, is a Breast Cancer survivor! Anna would like to increase awareness on self-checking your breasts for changes, especially amongst the younger generation. Below Anna chats all about Breast Cancer in Ireland, gives details on what to look out for and how to self-exam your breasts.

How common is Breast Cancer in Ireland?

Statistically, breast cancer survival rates are improving in Ireland as a result of the government screening programme for women aged 50-65 years. However, it is so important for younger women to understand the importance of good breast health awareness. Early detection saves lives!


Here are some stats on Breast Cancer in Ireland:


What signs do I need to look out for?

The signs of Breast Cancer are not the same for all women. It is important to know how your breasts normally look and feel. Many women have a pattern of lumpiness in their breasts, which is normal. But if you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms, contact your GP right away. 


Know what is your normal

Check every month for any of these breast changes:

  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin of your breasts
  • Lumps, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area
  • Itchy, scaly sore skin or rash on/ around the nipple
  • A change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of the breast
  • Change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly, especially with bloody nipple discharge
  • New pain in one spot that does not go away
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast


How do I do a Breast self-exam?

Breast Self-Exam is a tool that may help you learn what is normal for you. A self-exam includes looking at and feeling your breasts to check for any changes.

Step 1: Look for changes

Best to do this in front of the mirror so you can see your breasts from different angles:

  • Hold your arms at your side
  • Hold your arms over your head
  • Press your hands on your hips and tighten your chest muscles
  • Bend forward with your hands on your hips


Step 2: Feel for changes

An easy way of feeling your breast is with a soapy hand in the bath or shower. Some women prefer to feel for changes while lying down:

  • Lie down on your back with a pillow under your right shoulder
  • Use the pads of the three middle fingers on your left hand to check your right breast
  • Press using light, medium and firm pressure in a circle without lifting your fingers off the skin
  • Follow an up and down pattern
  • Feel for changes in your breast, above and below your collarbone and in your armpit
  • Repeat on your left breast using your right hand



Can I reduce my risk of getting Breast Cancer?


The most important things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer are to:

  • Check your breasts every month and contact your GP immediately if you notice any spot any abnormal changes
  • Take part in the BreastCheck screening programme. It’s free every 2 years for women aged 50 to 69
  • Talk to your GP about earlier screening if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer
  • Keep a healthy weight for your height
  • Stay active: Women who are physically active have a lower risk of breast cancer than less active women. Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least 5 days a week
  • Limit alcohol: The more you cut down, the more you can reduce your risk. Limit your breast cancer risk by drinking no more than one standard drink a day
  • Stop smoking
  • Breastfeed your baby: The longer a woman breastfeeds her baby, the more she reduces her breast cancer risk. It’s best to breastfeed your baby for at least the first six months, if possible



There are many brilliant resources available on Breast Cancer and Breast checks, check them out below:

Irish Cancer Society – Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Ireland

HSE – Breast Cancer Signs, Symptoms & Diagnosis

For more information about BreastCheck screenings and to book, visit: HSE – BreastCheck screening


Remember if you feel or see any change in your breasts or underarms, or you are worried about symptoms, contact your GP right away.