Breast checks


What is a mammogram?

A mammogram is an X-ray of the breasts to check for any irregularities. In Vietnam it is recommended women have their first mammogram between the ages of 35-39 years or when indicated by a doctor. Depending on their risk factors, women should then have a mammogram every 1-2 years until the age of 49. Yearly mammograms are recommended for women 50 years or older.

How do I do a breast check?

Performing self-examination on your breasts is a simple routine and should not take long. It is good to find a quiet moment when you will not be disturbed and a place where you feel warm and relaxed like your bedroom.
Step One
Undress from the waist up and stand in front of a mirror. Your breasts look different when your arms are in different positions, so get to know what they look like. With your arms by your sides look at your breasts as you turn from side to side.  Stretching upwards, keep looking for anything unusual, not forgetting your nipples.  Place your hands on your hips and press your hands on your hips until you feel your chest muscles tighten. Look particularly for any skin changes like a dimple or ‘orange peel’ effect.
Step Two
Lie flat on your back with your head on a pillow and raise your left shoulder slightly. Using the right hand on your left breast, press gently but firmly. Work in a circular motion, feeling around the nipple and moving to the outer part of the breast. Remember to keep your fingers together and use the flat part of your fingers, not the tips. Now raise your left arm above your head and do the same circular check again. Finish off this side by feeling right up into your armpit – a lot of women do not realise that their breast actually extends that far, so lumps may develop in this area. Now, check your right breast with your left hand following the same method.

What should I be looking for during a breast check?

When performing a breast examination on yourself it is important to be aware of what is normal for you and changes to look out for. You are not just looking for lumps, but also a change in the shape of your breasts, unusual pain in just one place, dimpling on the skin (a bit like an ‘orange peel’ effect), changes in your nipples including a rash, nipple turning inwards and bleeding or discharge.

Do all women need to check their breasts?

Although women over 50 are most at risk of breast cancer, there is a small risk at any age and you should always be aware of any changes to your breasts. You are also more at risk if there is a history of breast cancer in your family.  Other non-cancerous lumps often affect younger women. Whatever your age, it is good practice to get into the habit of checking your breasts regularly. 

When should I do a breast check?

Some women find that their breasts feel lumpy and tender in the days leading up to their period. This is normal but it means you probably will not notice any abnormal lumps. The best time to check your breasts is just after your period. If you no longer have periods, choose a date you will remember, such as the first day of the month.

What is a breast check?

If detected early enough, breast cancer can be treated successfully. For this reason it is important to check your breasts regularly; the vast majority of breast cancers are found by women themselves. A simple technique to learn, breast examination can become a normal part of your monthly routine. You don't need to know exactly what you are checking for when you start, but the more familiar you become with how your breasts look and feel, the easier it will be to spot any changes such as small lumps.