It is important to take charge of your health

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In recent weeks I have definitely noticed an increase in the number of questions I have been receiving from women about the presence of breast lumps.

It appears that many women still do not check themselves regularly.

And I must say I have been alarmed by the number of women who do not know how to check themselves and even felt too embarrassed to ask.

How many women have been in the position where they finally get an appointment with their doctor’s surgery but unfortunately no female doctors are available?

Although doctors are obviously very professional in their handling of their patients, it is every woman’s prerogative to be examined by a female doctor, if that’s what she wants.

Putting that to one side, all women should understand what it entails to examine themselves – in fact they should feel confident about all aspects of their health.

It is also important for women to know if there is anything abnormal and when they should think about seeking medical help.

First of all it is important to know your body: if anything abnormal does show up, you need to be able to recognise it.

The most important thing is to know how your breasts normally look and feel.

Check your breasts regularly, so you can spot any changes quickly. A lump can be an early sign of breast cancer.

Things to be aware of first are texture and shape.

Look at your breasts to see if their size, outline or shape has changed, particularly when you move your arms or lift your breasts. Check to see if one breast has got larger or its position is lower.

Look out for any dimpling or puckering of your skin.

Once you’ve done that, have a feel.

It is easiest if you are lying on your side or standing in the shower. The examination can also be done in front of the mirror.

Whichever is the preferred position, raise your arm above your head or on your hips, so the full area of your breast is visible from every angle.

Check each breast and armpit by running your hand over each breast and up under each arm. Feel for any lumps, thickening or bumpy areas that are different from the same area on your other side.

Start from the armpit and cover the full area following the same route each time so you get used to the same pattern. It will also make it more likely that you would notice anything different.

Remember our bodies change with pregnancy, breastfeeding, the menstrual cycle and menopause so be aware of which changes are normal for you.

If you notice anything unusual these are things you need to consider:

When did you first notice a change?

Is there any pain involved?

Is there any discharge from the nipple area?

Does you menstrual cycle change your symptoms?

Has there been any trauma to the area?

Is there any family history?

The next stage is to visit the doctor with all of your findings. Remember, it’s important to take charge of your health.