Breast Self Exam For Women With Breast Implants

Breast Self Exam For Women With Breast Implants

Why Should I Perform A Breast Self Exam?

The main reason is to catch breast cancer as early as possible. If caught early, the prognosis is far more likely to be a favourable one.

Women with breast implants may also be able to detect the following through a breast self exam: capsular contracture, breast implant rupture, ridges and rippling and breast implant extrusion.

Breast Cancer Facts

Let's look at some of the facts regarding breast cancer:

  • Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK.
  • In the UK in 2010 there were around 50,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in women. That's over 130 women each day.
  • The number of cases diagnosed annually is increasing quite rapidly
  • Around 20% of the cases diagnosed in the UK are through NHS breast screening.

  • The number of fatalities from breast cancer reduces year upon year.
  • 80% of patients survive longer than 5 years.
  • Early detection substantially increases survival rate.

What Should I Look For In My Breast Self Exam?

In General

You are looking for changes to your breasts and nipples. You might want to take some photos of your breasts using a mirror or take some notes in your diary so that you have a reference point for when you perform subsequent breast self exams. Look for:

  • Any changes such as the size and shape of your breasts.
  • A change in their position e.g. one breast hanging lower than the other.
  • Changes in firmness of your breast tissue as you examine by touch and feel.
  • Formation of lumps within the breast tissue.
  • Examine your nipples and the dark area of skin around them to see if they have changed position or shape at all. Check for changes in colour. The small lumps on the nipple areolae are called Montgomery glands, they are also known as areolar skin glands. They are perfectly natural but you should look for changes is size, colour and numbers of these. Taking photos can help.

What To Look For If You Have Breast Implants

In addition to the above, if you have breast implants you will be able to feel them and distinguish them from your natural breast tissue. Note how firm they feel and learn to locate their boundaries so that you become familiar with their shape and size. Look for changes in:

  • Firmness
    If the implant feels tighter and firmer then it may indicate that capsular contracture is setting in.

  • Texture
    Feel for ridges and ripples on the implants. Note that ridges and ripples may start to occur after the implants have been in place for a few years as the implants age. If ridges or ripples occur sooner than this, it may indicate a problem with your implants.

  • Size
    In particular with saline breast implants, if you notice a reduction in size, then it may indicate implant rupture or a leak.

  • Lumps
    If you notice a lump or a bump in the skin on your breasts that feels like the breast implant pushing into your skin, this this may indicate breast implant extrusion.

Of course your breasts may change in size and shape depending upon they day in your menstrual cycle. They will also change with pregnancy. If you dieting or putting on weight, then this will also affect the size and shape of your breasts. You will need to allow for these factors when assessing any changes.

If you notice any changes, or if you are worried or are in any doubt, then you should consult your GP. It is better to be safe than sorry.

How Do I Carry Out My Breast Self Exam?

The procedure described below represent an extensive review of the medical literature and input from an expert advisory group. There is evidence that the lying down position and using different amounts of pressure increase your ability to find abnormal areas.

Step 1: Standing Up

Stand in front of a mirror with your hands on your hips and look at your bare breasts. This is a visual check only, so look at size, shape and position of your breasts and nipples. See above for more details.

Repeat the above check, this time with your hands above your head.

Now examine your nipples, breasts and nipple areola as described above.

Step 2: Lying Down

For details of how to perform a breast self exam lying down, we refer you to the American Cancer Society.

NHS Breast Screening Programme

26th October 20011: There has been some recent controversy in the press as to the effectiveness of the NHS breast screening programme. In particular, there have been a number of mis-diagnosed cases.

Apart from the psychological stress caused to patients who have been mis-diagnosed, the main concern is to those who have undergone subsequent treatment for conditions that were either unnecessary to treat or would not require treatments with either the consequences or side effects of those delivered. So it the effects of the treatment on those mis-diagnosed cases which needs to be taken in to account. However, this does need to be balanced with the far greater number of successfully diagnosed and treated cases which the screening programme has been responsible for.

Currently, there are conflicting reports in the number of both positively diagnosed and treated cases and also the number of mis-diagnosed cases.