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A recent study by scientists at Anglia Ruskin University has discovered that women who are unhappy with their breast size are less like likely to carry out regular self-examinations.

The study examined 384 British women and found that these women were less likely to carry out examinations of their own breasts. In addition, they also felt less confident about their ability to detect any sort of change in the condition of their chest.

‘Embarrassment and shame’

The research, published in Body Image, went on to state that inspecting their breasts triggered negative emotions, such as ‘shame and embarrassment’ that, as a result, meant the participants were slower to raise concerns with medical professionals.

A third (33%) of participants stated they rarely or never conducted breast self-examinations. This is despite recommendations from the NHS for women to check their breasts several times a month in order to monitor changes.

In the study, 75% of participants stated they were unhappy with the size of their breasts. Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University said: “For women who are dissatisfied with their breast size, having to inspect their breasts may be experienced as a threat to their body image and so they may engage in avoidance behaviours.”

“Breast size dissatisfaction may also activate negative self-conscious emotions, such as shame and embarrassment, that results in avoiding breast self-examination.”

How to check your breasts

Approximately 11,400 deaths were attributed to breast cancer during 2014, with 99% of cases coming from women. Despite efforts from organisations like Cancer Research UK, NHS and Breast Cancer Now, many women are still failing to examine their own bodies for signs of breast cancer.

Medical professionals at the NHS recommend a five-point plan for self-examination:

  • know what's normal for you
  • look at your breasts and feel them
  • know what changes to look for
  • report any changes without delay
  • attend routine screening if you're 50 or over

Medics recommend seeing a GP if you spot changes to your breasts. Things to look out for include changes in the shape, size, and outline of a breast, bleeding or discharge from the nipple, rashes around the nipple, lumps on the chest, or any pain or discomfort in a single breast.