Search the Learning Centre
Getting to Know The Breasts
Everyone needs to know how their breasts look normally and what they feel like. Getting to know the breasts means that a person will look at and touch their entire chest area and underarms. If they do this regularly, they will be more likely to detect any changes or abnormalities that may require medical attention.
Changes in the breast(s) to watch out for include:
- lump or swelling in the armpit
- changes in breast size or shape
- dimpling or puckering of the skin – thickening and dimpling skin is sometimes called ‘orange peel’
- redness, swelling, and increased warmth in the affected breast
- inverted nipple – nipple turns inwards
- crusting or scaling on the nipple
If someone notices any changes in their breasts, they don’t need to panic. About 80-85% of all lumps found in breasts are benign (non-cancerous). However, it is best to follow up and talk with a doctor about concerns to rule out any possible underlying medical issues.
There is some disagreement among health care professionals about whether to promote breast self-examinations (BSEs) or not.
In 2007, the Canadian Cancer Society changed its position on breast self-exams and no longer recommends routine breast self-examinations. The Society still recommends that people get to know their bodies by looking at and touching their breasts; however, it no longer recommends regular self-examinations that follow a prescribed method every month at the same time.
This change in policy is based on research that shows the most effective ways to detect breast cancer are clinical examinations by a health professional and mammograms. Performing routine BSEs may give some people false confidence that they do not need medical assessment when they actually do.
The Canadian Cancer Society Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines:
If a person is aged 40-49: They should have a clinical breast examination by a trained healthcare professional at least every 2 years. They can talk with their doctor about the risk of breast cancer, along with the benefits and risks of mammography.
- If someone is aged 50-69: They should have a clinical breast examination by a trained healthcare professional at least every 2 years and have a mammogram every 2 years.
- If a person is aged 70 or older: They should talk to their doctor about how often to be tested for breast cancer.
Getting to Know The Testicles
Starting around age 15, all folks with penises should get to know how their testicles look and feel so that they are able to detect any changes that might require medical follow-up. Testicular self-exams are an effective way for a person to get to know their body and to detect any changes that might signal testicular cancer at an early—and very curable—stage. Although rare, testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in males aged 15-29. It is also one of the most curable cancers.
When a person does a Testicular Self Exam (TSE), they are looking for:
- a hard, painless lump on the testicle
- a painful testicle
- a change in size, shape, tenderness, or feel of a testicle or the scrotum
- a feeling of heaviness or dragging in the lower abdomen or scrotum
- a dull ache in the lower abdomen and groin
People should ensure they have regular medical check-ups with a physician (once a year) and follow-up with a medical professional if they notice any changes or any of the signs listed, too.
How to Perform a Testicular Self Exam (TSE)
A person can do a TSE in front of a mirror after a warm shower or bath, when the muscles of the scrotum are relaxed. This makes it easier to feel any lumps, growths, or tenderness.
Examine each testicle separately using both hands. Place the index and middle fingers under the testicle with the thumbs placed on top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumbs and fingers. Find the epididymis—the soft, tube-like structure behind the testicle that collects and carries sperm. If a person is familiar with this structure, they won’t mistake it for a suspicious lump.
Cancerous lumps usually are found on the sides of the testicle but can also show up on the front. A person doesn’t need to be alarmed if one testicle seems slightly larger than the other, either—that’s normal! If a lump is found on either testicle, a person should consult a doctor.
To learn more about breast examinations, visit the Canadian Cancer Society
To learn more about pap tests, visit Alberta’s MyHealth Website
To learn more about trans men and pap testing, visit Check It Out Guys
To learn more about cervical cancer, visit ScreeningForLife.ca
To learn more about testicular cancer and how to prevent it, visit Testicular Cancer Canada
To learn more about prostate cancer, visit Prostate Cancer Canada