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Mammography

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    Breast Screening
    Breast Screening by mammography is the most effective way to detect breast cancer in its early stages. Mammography is an X-ray technique used to visualise the breast tissue, enabling detection of any abnormalities or disease. Ultrasound and other more specialised techniques may supplement mammography, if deemed necessary by your consultant radiologist.

    Self Examination
    Look after yourself - careful breast examination is a simple test which you should do regularly. If you find something wrong, go and see your GP. In most cases it won't be breast cancer, but just a small cyst or benign lump which can be dealt with easily, especially when found early. A few minutes, once a month is all it takes to check if your breasts are healthy. Carry out the examination at the same time each month, and if still menstruating, this should be after your period.

    Inspection
    To begin with, look at your breasts in the mirror, first with your arms by your side, then with your arms raised above your head, turning from side to side. Then place your hands on your hips and push your chest forwards.

    It is important to remember that no two breasts are the same. One breast will probably be a little larger than the other.

    You should then look for;

    • any change in the size or shape of either breast
    • any change in either nipple, or discharge of fluid
    • any unusual dimple or puckering of the skin or nipple
    • veins standing out more than usual for you

    Feeling
    Lie down on a bed and make yourself comfortable with your head on a pillow. Examine one breast at a time. Put a folded towel under your shoulder blade on the side you are examining. This helps to spread the breast tissue so it is easier to examine.

    Use your right hand to examine your left breast and vice versa. Put the hand you are not using under your head. Keep your fingers together and use the flat part of the fingers, not the tips. Start from the collar bone above your breast. Trace a continuous spiral around your breast, moving your fingers in small circles. Feel gently but firmly, for any unusual lump or thickening.

    Work around the outside of the breast first. When you get back to your starting point, work around again in a slightly smaller circle and so on. Keep on doing this until you have worked right up to your nipple. Make sure you have covered every part of your breast. You may find a ridge of tissue in a half moon shape under your breast. This is quite normal.

    Finally, examine your armpit. Again, use the flat of your fingers and the same small circular movements to feel for any lumps. Start right up in the hollow of your armpit and gradually work your way down towards your breast.

    Breast screening is available from Nuffield Hospitals Health Screening. Click here to find out more.

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