Unjani Clinic

Breast Cancer

What it looks like & how to find it

Performing regular self-examinations is widely regarded to be an effective early detection method. All women should check their breasts regularly for changes in the appearance of the breast and nipple.

You should also look out for:

  • redness (inflammation)
  • an inverted (pointing inward) nipple
  • pain in the breast
  • discharge (liquid) from the breast other than milk, especially blood
  • changes to the texture (feel) of the breast, such as:
    • puckering
    • unusually thick skin
    • flaky skin

While these are the most common symptoms of breast cancer, there are many conditions that cause lumps in the breast that are far less serious than cancer, including natural changes in your body’s hormone levels.


Performing a self-examination in 5 easy steps

Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
Check that your breasts are their usual size, shape, and colour; that they are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling. If you see any of the changes mentioned above, alert your doctor.
Raise your arms and re-examine your breasts for the same changes
Next, check for abnormalities by feeling your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast, and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first two finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Press down with your fingers and move them in a circular motion. Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.
Make sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
If you find a lump, don’t panic. There are many things that can cause breast lumps and most of them are completely benign. Schedule an appointment with your doctor, as they can advise you on the best way forward.