Written by: Jocelyn Clark BSc Nursing, currently completing masters in Women's Health.
I’m sure we can all remember a situation like this. The cheap wine, doritos, girlfriend catchups that are way over due. And someone says "oh, I dunno... I've had this weird thing happening lately”. She’s talking about her body. A mixture of shame, relief, catharsis as we all ‘go there’.
Growing up I knew just enough to get by. I asked all the questions about anatomy, sex, hormones and mental health that we all ask ourselves, because we don’t know unless we’re told right? I’ve only ever wanted to work in Women’s Health, and since working in this field and starting a Master’s in Women’s Health, I’ve been the go-to girl for my friends personal health crises. I find myself always in conversation with women of all ages about the mystery of their bodies.
This is what inspired Talking V’s.
I want to crack the convo open. I’m going there. I’m talking about it. Because there’s nothing naughty about knowing about your body girl, and the more we know, the healthier we can be.
I’m Jocelyn, and with Talking V’s I’m starting these kinds of conversations to help de-stigmatise women’s health, one vagina at a time. I want you to know how important it is to be “Breast Aware”.
Breast awareness is really about getting to know yourself, your own body, feeling comfortable assessing your breasts so that if any changes occurred you’d know about it. Give them some love. Just notice them.. more often.
The first thing about being breast aware is to know what's normal for you!
Many women have different colours, shapes, sizes. Some nipples are flat, others large. Some women might have one larger than the other (yep I do). Some women experience tenderness before their period, others don’t. Many women will have different density to their tissue. Some women have bumps and lumps, and that is all very normal to their own body! If you can learn to navigate your breasts, you’ll be able to spot something that might not be quite right. You’ve got to know your breasts like a captain knows their ocean. Ya know what I’m saying? In your heart.
If you haven't already acquainted yourself with your breasts well, do so. It’s important to have a good idea of the size, colour and shape of your breasts as these may change.
Okay so I've got the basics down - what do you do now? Glad you asked! Firstly LOOK!
Image courtesy of: @planetprudence
Undress and find a mirror.
While looking in the mirror, raise your arms so you are able to see right underneath your breasts and also underneath your arms. Give your beautiful bod a good looksie (hot damn).
Differences you might find which would need a Medical checkup:
• If you are experiencing redness or a rash to the skin.
• If your nipple or breast is a different shape.
• Your nipple may look pinched, swollen, bulging or inverted (as long as it wasn’t normally like this).
• Any discharge if you slightly squeeze the nipple.
• Visible change to the shape or size of the breast.
Now FEEL. Breast lumps do not always form directly in the perkiest part of your chest. They can also form right up underneath your armpits, and even up to your collarbone. So to make sure you don’t miss a spot try to use this technique:
Image courtesy of: @theroseclinic
With one arm in the air, take the opposite hand and place it over your nipple. Begin to roll your flat fingers over your nipple in a clockwise formation. Slowly move your hands outward from your nipple around your breast. Make sure to continue on with this until you’ve reached right in your cleavage, under your armpit and up your chest to your collarbone. Once finished, repeat on the other side. You might feel most comfortable using shower gel or moisturiser. This process will help familiarise yourself with the lumps and bumps of your own breast tissue.
Go and see your GP if:
• You find a lump that you are not familiar with.
• You’re experiencing pain in your breast that you wouldn’t normally experience as a part of your menstruation cycle.
• You are able to feel a change in size or shape of the breast.
But when do we start checking ourselves?
Ladies, I’m here to tell you the time is now!
I don’t care how big or small your chesty crown jewels may be – those babies need a good (lovely and gentle) grab once a month! If you menstruate, the best time to do it is AFTER your period. During your cycle, your breasts change with the changes of hormones. It’s common for women to experience discomfort, swelling,
or bumps in their breast before and during their period.
So to be sure you’re getting the best idea of your ‘normal’ breast, check them in the few days after your period has finished. If you don’t menstruate, pick a day in the month that suits you and put it on your calendar, for habits sake!
So what about mammograms?
A mammogram is an XRAY to your breasts. These are important as they are more likely to detect cancers which our lovely fingers might not catch out.
Mammograms aren't recommended for women under 40, as they are not so effective due to the difference in density in breast tissue at a younger age. In Australia, women can have FREE mammograms from the age of 40.
Remember, be breast aware! Know your normal and go from there. Be a good gal-pal and remind your friends to check their breasts once a month too.
If you have any worries, do not hesitate to see your GP.
For further information, or to see how you can support the breast cancer cause check out these websites below.