Are you Aware of your Breast – Health? Know the Signs and Ways to Examine
Breast Cancer is a disease women dread but unfortunately, it has become the 2nd most common type of cancer among women in India and is rising at an alarming rate. Breast Cancer cannot be prevented altogether, but early detection is a wise step towards healthy living. While it is not always possible to detect breast cancer just with mere knowledge of these warning signs and self- breast examination; they place one in a better position to detect its onset and get armoured to fight it off.
Warning Signs of Breast Cancer
An unusual change in the appearance or feel of the breast or a discharge may signal the onset of breast cancer. Broadly, the symptoms of breast cancer can be categorised as follows:-
Feel of the Breasts
- A lump in the breast, armpit or upper chest may be a sign that it’s time to consult a doctor. However, you must not panic if you find a lump, as not all lumps are cancerous.
- Thickening of skin in or near the breast or armpit area.
- Pain in one spot in the breast.
- Nipple Tenderness.
Appearance of the Breasts
- Redness or darkening of the breasts.
- Unexplained swelling in a breast.
- Change in skin texture owing to dimpling, puckering or enlarged pores.
- An unusual change in the size (enlargement or shrinkage) or shape of the breasts.
- A slightly inward or inverted nipple.
Discharge from the Nipples
- A clear fluid or milky discharge (when a woman is not nursing) or blood coming from the nipples.
If you notice any of the above breast cancer symptoms, you must consult a doctor for further investigation of your breast health. However, you must not panic because many times, these symptoms are not due to cancer on account of some other reasons.
Early detection is the best fight against breast cancer, which can be done by conducting regular self – breast examination, clinical examination or mammograms.
Self Breast Examination
Interestingly, 40% of breast cancer cases are detected at home by doing the breast self-examination. It must be religiously carried out every month to assess your breast health and can be easily done at home by using the simple formula of LOOK, FEEL and CHECK.
Step 1: Stand in front of the mirror and look at your breasts for any warning signs.
Step 2: Raise your arms together and look for any symptoms of breast cancer.
Step 3: Lie down with your right hand upwards and palm below your head. Start feeling your right breast with the other hand now. Move the upper portion of your fingers(not tips) thoroughly around the breast by moving them in a circular motion/ in straight lines to find unusual lumps. Ensure that you move your fingers across the breast and not leave a portion unchecked. Check if there is any unusual dischargeor lump by squeezing your nipples. Repeat the procedure for the other breast.
Step 4: Sit or stand with one hand behind your head and repeat the finger movement to check your breasts.
Clinical Breast Examination
A clinical Breast Examination must be performed by a trained healthcare professional i.e. a doctor, nurse or trained medical staff. Ideally, breasts must be examined every 1-3 years between the age of 20 to 40 years; and annually after 40 years.
A Mammogram is an imaging test that helps in early detection of breast cancer by conducting a low dose X-ray of the breasts. It can detect cancer up to 2 years before the symptoms actually surface or a healthcare professional can decisively detect them. Mammograms must be done either annually or bi annually, once you reach the age of 40 years – more so if you are at high risk factors or have a genetic history of breast cancer.
Early Detection is the Key to a Better Life!
We cannot prevent breast cancer from afflicting any of us, but a smart woman is always proactive towards and aware of her breast-health.