Breast Exams: It’s time to get checked

In the words of the immortal Shakira, “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble”. She was hoping that they wouldn’t be confused with mountains, but I’m just hoping that it’s going to make the task at hand a little easier.

I embarked on the exercise of reviewing three apps designed to help you carry out a breast-check. Over 3000 people are expected to die from breast cancer in Australia this year, and it is projected to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer of 2018 – 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed! Stats also say that up to 90% of lumps are found by sufferers themselves, so it is now more critical than ever to understand your breasts inside and out. The Cancer Council recommends that all age groups should be carrying out regular self-checks, so regardless of your age, it is vital that you become familiar with your breasts and be on the lookout for any changes.

Personally, with most campaigns being directed towards my mum’s age group rather than mine, I felt completely clueless as to how a breast exam is conducted. Discovering apps to guide me through this process seemed like the perfect solution, so I’m going to share my experiences and reviews to encourage you to get checked yourself!  

The Contestants

I found three apps to pit against one another, stripped them down and got as comfy with them as possible (as comfy as can be conducting a breast check in the Canberra winter!).

1. Breast Check

Breast Check has pictures and focused questions that guide you through a self-conducted breast examination. It shows you how to check your breasts and what to look for, and it also has links to videos that visually help you through the process. It allows you to log your checks and record any changes or concerns that you note, so that you can revisit them in the future. This was one of my favourite features from the three apps and really set Breast Check apart. The app allows you to create a personal plan by linking your breast check to an activity in your own routine, such as going for a run. Furthermore, you can set reminders and decide how often you’d like to check, ranging from weekly to every few months. I would have personally appreciated more specific advice on how frequently a breast examination should be conducted, however, in another section of the app it does recommend checking your breasts at different points in your cycle, to be more attuned to any to changes.

2. Check Yourself

As a side note that has nothing to do with the quality of content, Check Yourself was slightly buggy and crashed once or twice during operation. Bearing in mind that the weather was very nippy and that I was keen to rug up again as soon as possible, this was slightly frustrating. Having said that, the instructions are more detailed than Breast Check, and I felt more confident following them. The instructions are accompanied by animated gifs, which are also great direction. It provides body-positive messages and mentions the need to carry out breast checks even as a teen or young person. The tone of the information it offers is a slightly lighter than the other apps – which may or may not appeal to you – but I did find it to be the most informative out of the three. Like the other apps, it also allows you to set reminders for when to check, but unlike Breast Check, it provides advice on the time in your cycle that is best to do so (about a week after your period ends). It also stresses that it is important to check at the same time each month, which I found particularly useful.  

3. Brexa

First up, some of the services that Brexa offers are only available in India (where the app was developed). Naturally, this is disappointing, and it would be fantastic if these services were eventually available in other regions. The app solely uses videos to guide you through a breast check, as opposed to the other two, which offer at least the option of written instruction. Personally, I preferred the option of text, as I could then navigate the process at my own pace. In addition to scheduling reminders for self-checks, Brexa allows you to plan a yearly reminder to book a mammogram, which is vital if you’re over 40. The app can also be used to schedule mammogram appointments, and if a problem arises, appointments with qualified specialist doctors near you can be arranged. However, these functionalities are unfortunately not available in Australia. Furthermore, it includes a feature that calculates your breast cancer risk, but this is only effective for those over 35. Naturally, I cast aside all my hydrating moisturisers and allowed myself to age over a decade to test this out. It asks a few questions and gives you a risk percentage at the end. Overall, I’d say this app can be quite useful – however, it’s most practical for those living in India, aged 40 and over, who have full access to its functionalities. If I’m ignoring the features that I can’t use, I found it to be the weakest of the three.

Overall impressions

All the apps left me feeling far more educated and confident about conducting a self-check, so regardless of which app you choose, I would highly recommend any of them. Nevertheless, Brexa was simultaneously my favourite app and the least useful of the three. It has a lot of great functionalities but these weren’t applicable to my age group or available in my region. If it does suit your region or age group, I’d highly recommend it. Breast Check and Check Yourself I would place about on par – they’re very similar. Breast Check had the great addition of being able to log notes on your checks, but Check Yourself was more informative and slightly easier to follow. I did observe that they were all quite ‘pink’ and gender normative, so I’d love to see app makers pushing for greater diversity in the future. The takeaway message that I hope you’ll walk away with is that breast checks are super important – important enough to strip off on a frosty Canberra night. Regardless of whatever method or app you use, it’s time to get checked.