How to do a self breast check

Breast Cancer Awareness Month and How to do a Breast Check – Osteopath Dr Jess Watson


With roughly 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer in their life-time, the odds are scarily high that nearly everyone will be affected by the disease at some time in their life. It’s estimated that over 19,500 Australian’s will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I think it’s time to discuss it and how to do a self breast check.

The biggest key to fighting this disease is early detection, so here’s some information for you, or a loved one, on the things to look out for and what to do if something seems not quite right!

Who is at risk?

Risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Being a female – 99% female, 1% male
  • Over the age of 50
  • Family history of breast 
  • Faulty genes – most commonly the  BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Regularly drinking high amounts of alcohol
  • Being a smoker
  • Having dense breasts
  • Being exposed to radiation to the chest or face before the age of 30
  • Using the oral contraceptive pill
  • Using combined hormone replacement therapy for 5+ years

What should you be looking out for?

Some signs and warning signs to watch for are:

  • A new lump in your breast or under your arm
  • Thickening or swelling in part of your breast
  • Irritation or dimpling on the skin of your breast
  • Redness or flaky skin in your nipple area or on your breast
  • Pain in your nipple area
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Any change in the shape or size of your breast
  • Pain in any area of your breast

Should you be checking your own breasts?

Yes, yes and YES! You should be doing this at least once a month!!

It is super important to become familiar with the normal look and feel of your own breasts, and everyone’s breasts look and feel so different! It is very common to have breasts that are different shapes or sizes from one another, to have nipples that look different from one another, and even to have lumpy breasts all the time. Only YOU will learn what is normal for YOU!

There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts for changes. You can do this in the bath or shower, when you are getting dressed, when you are applying fake tan or when lying in bed at night. Just decide what you are most comfortable with, and what suits you best. 

Something that I think is often overlooked is that breast tissue actually starts in your armpit, so it is super important when you are doing a self breast check to feel underneath both of your arms, and also across your chest up to your collar bones!

An easy pneumonic to remember is TLC

Touch – Does anything feel different?

Look – Does anything look different?

Check – Check any changes with your local GP

How to do a self breast check

Do It Yourself - At Home Breast Exam

 (Image from

What to do if something seems not quite right?

Firstly, try not to panic. There are lots of other reasons something may have changed when it comes to your breasts. However, it is extremely important to get a doctor to check it out just in case! If you don’t feel comfortable or are too nervous to go alone, that’s okay! Take a friend, family member or your partner with you! 

Below are some GREAT websites if you’re wanting more information about breast cancer:

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