How to check your breasts when you have implants
Every woman knows that we should be regularly checking our breasts every month. The average woman has a 13 per cent chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime – but when we detect the signs early, survival rates skyrocket. The real question is: how do we do it?
Feeling out lumps, bumps, and other irregularities sounds simple enough in theory, but it can be confusing to know what’s normal and what’s not. This is especially true for anyone who’s undergone a breast augmentation, with foreign material providing another obstacle in an already daunting task. Fortunately, a self-examination is easier than you may think.
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How do I check my breasts?
Checking your breasts after surgery isn’t too different from pre-implants. The key to spotting any changes is getting to grips with the shape, size, and feel of your breasts. This means, once you feel comfortable post-surgery, familiarising yourself with your ‘new normal’.
This self-check should be as thorough as possible, but it shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes. Sit in front of a mirror with your top off, put your hands on your hips, and relax your chest muscles. The first step is to check the appearance. Once you’ve had a good look, clasp your hands, raise them above your head, and check the appearance again from this position.
Next, feel for lumps, bumps and changes to the tissue using three fingers of the opposite hand to your breast. With one arm still raised, walk your fingers from your opposite side over the breast slowly, pressing lightly and ensuring to cover the entire breast. Continue to walk your fingers towards the armpit, checking for swellings and lumps in this area, and repeat on the other breast.
In an ideal world, we’d all check our breasts monthly from the age of 18 – implants or no implants. However, it’s better to start late than not at all. We know it can be anxiety-inducing, even once you know what you’re doing. Nobody wants to find the signs of breast cancer. But at the same time, nobody wants to miss them either.
Just don’t fall into the trap of overcompensating. Checking your breasts too often can be as risky as not checking at all, as it might lead to missing subtle changes.
When you check them is up to you, but we recommend doing it one week after your period. Breasts can feel tender and swollen during your period itself, thanks to the hormonal rollercoaster. This gives them time to readjust to their usual sensitivity levels. Alternatively, if you don’t have a menstrual cycle, pick a date each month and stick to it.
What should I look out for?
Once you know what your breasts look and feel like post-surgery, it should be easy to spot any changes. Essentially, anything out of the ordinary is worth noting and bringing up with your doctor. Some of the most common changes include…
A change in shape or size
Breasts naturally fluctuate in size over the years – whether that’s due to weight loss, weight gain, pregnancy, or breastfeeding. This shouldn’t be as noticeable with breast implants but can still happen. The changes to look out for are sudden and drastic, or only affecting one breast.
Discharge or rashes
Discharge and rashes are some of the easiest symptoms to spot. Talk to your doctor about any kind of discharge – whether it’s watery, cloudy, or bloody – as well as any red, itchy rashes.
A change in texture
Like any kind of surgery, breast augmentation can lead to scar tissue that may or may not resolve itself with time. That’s why it’s important to know exactly how yours feels, so you can recognise any changes in texture. Again, you should be on the lookout for anything abnormal, but especially puckering or dimpling comparable to the feel of orange peel.
Pain and swelling
Obviously, sensitivity is an inevitable part of any operation. However, don’t dismiss any worsening pain, or a feeling that starts long after surgery.
There’s one huge advantage to checking your breasts after an augmentation. With the implants pushing natural tissue closer to the surface, lumps are easier to spot and feel. Not all lumps are cancerous, but they’re always worth bringing up to your doctor – especially because they can signal other issues with breast implants.
What do I do next?
If you do notice symptoms, don’t panic. We know it’s easier said than done – especially when it comes to something as intimidating as cancer. However, just remember that breast cancer isn’t the only thing that affects your breasts.
At the same time, while it’s tempting to push these things to the back of your mind, it’s always best to confront them head-on. The sooner you share the problem with your doctor, the closer you are to achieving peace of mind. Stay calm and arrange an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
If everything feels and looks the same as usual, you’re good to go. While you should also be sure to attend any professional screenings as recommended by your surgeon and doctor (especially if you’re over the age of 50) keeping up this routine can go a long way in picking up early signs of breast cancer. So, be ready to go again – same time, next month.
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