Breast cancer: a guide for how to check your breasts for lumps, as Sarah Beeny is back in hospital

Sarah Beeny is back in hospital   (Sarah Beeny/ Instagram)
Sarah Beeny is back in hospital (Sarah Beeny/ Instagram)

Broadcaster Sarah Beeny is back in hospital amid her breast-cancer battle ahead of masectomy surgery.

The real estate specialist disclosed her cancer diagnosis back in August, stating that she had anticipated getting the illness after losing her mother to it.

Beeny was just 10 years old when she lost her mum, who was 39 at the time.

The 51-year-old celebrity underwent treatment on Thursday, February 2, at both the Royal Marsden and Yeovil hospitals. Prior to her most recent procedure, she displayed her surgical markings for the camera.

Beeny's sons proudly shared a photo of their brave mother on Instagram while joking that she had received some new tattoos, revealing that she is back in hospital.

According to Breast Cancer UK, the disease is the most common form of cancer in the UK, and the most common cancer in women globally.

Although 80 per cent of breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50, the earlier you get into the habit of checking for abnormalities, the better. Anyone can get breast cancer, although it is much more prevalent in women.

With the help of Luke Powles, the associate clinical director of Bupa Health Clinics, we have put together a guide to checking your breasts.

This includes what to look out for and what actions to take, should you find anything that gives you cause for concern.

How to check your breasts

When you are checking your breasts, look at the size and shape of each one and check for lumps. Make sure you check your nipples and the skin on your breasts. Check each area for any pain when you’re touching them, too. You might notice that your breasts feel different at different times of the month; it’s a good idea to become familiar with what’s normal for you during these times, so you can spot anything unusual.

What to look out for

  • A change in the size or shape of your breast

  • A change in the look or feel of your skin

  • A new lump, thickening, or bumpy area in one breast or armpit

  • Discharge or bleeding from your nipple

  • Any new discomfort or pain in one breast that doesn't go away

How often should I be checking my breasts?

Try to get into the habit of checking your breasts regularly – as a general guide, aim for at least once a month. Find a suitable time that works for you; perhaps it’s after you’ve had a bath, when you’re getting dressed, or when you’re settling down for the evening.

It is also important to be aware of what’s normal for you and your body. You should be mindful that your breasts will change during your monthly cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.

How early should you start checking for lumps?

While there’s no specific age you should start checking your breasts, checking them from an early age will help you to become more aware of how they usually look and feel, and to help you spot any changes.

If you’re a woman over 50, you will be invited for a breast screening (mammogram). If you’re a trans man, trans woman, or are non-binary, you may be invited automatically, or you may need to talk to your GP or call the local breast-screening service to ask for an appointment.You’re offered this screening every three years until you’re 70. You should still be checking your breasts regularly – a breast screening shouldn’t replace your regular breast checks.

What should you do if you find a lump?

If you notice a lump in your breast, it’s really important to get this checked by your doctor. A lump or change to the feel or appearance of your breasts should never be ignored. While it may not be anything serious, it can help put your mind at ease to speak to your doctor about any changes you spot.

Are there any breast abnormalities to look out for that may not be cancer?

Your breasts will change naturally each month and as you get older, and they may feel tender, heavy, or lumpy at the end of your monthly cycle. These changes should normalise once your period starts. It’s easier to check your breasts regularly outside of your monthly cycle.

If you're pregnant, your breasts will change while your baby is developing to get ready for breastfeeding, which means they may get bigger and feel sore and tender. When you reach the menopause, the amount of glandular tissue in your breasts reduces, because of the changes to your hormones. This can make your breasts feel different, and some women find they’re softer and less firm.

It’s really important that, when you’re checking your breasts (make sure you’re checking the whole of your breast area), you are looking for any changes that feel different. It’s best to speak to your GP about anything you’re feeling unsure, worried, or anxious about – as they’ll be able to help you.

You can find out more information or book a breast health check with Bupa.