Breast cancer is a disease when the breast cells divide incontrollable, causing a wide range of tumors. According to Globocan 2018, breast cancer is the second most diagnosed malignity and the fifth by number of deaths, worldwide. It might sound scary but nowadays the C-word is not as terrifying anymore. Discovered in early stages, breast cancer is treatable and patients might even live cancer free for the rest of their lives.
October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we have to acknowledge it, even here at A Sisters’ Thing. A healthy lifestyle is more than just a good diet and an adequate exercise plan, it’s being informed and taking care of yourself on all levels.
In this spirit, we want to talk about the Self Breast Examination, an essential step in the breast cancer screening, a step that all women have to be aware of and perform on a regular basis.
The self breast exam means regularly examining your breasts on your own, preferably 2-3 days after your period. This easy procedure you can do at home can lead to higher the chances of early diagnosis of tumors, in a time frame when curative treatment is possible. It might not be helpful with all types of breast tumors, but studies show it’s beneficial effect on overall statistics. If you are unsure about the technique you should use, you can always ask your doctor for a demonstration and you can also find a few tips coming up.
The 5 steps of breast examination
Step 1: Check a mirror
Begin by checking your breasts in the mirror. You should have a good posture, with your shoulders back and your hands on your hips.
You should check if your breasts are in their usual size, shape and color, without visible distortion or swelling and similar on both sides. A slight difference in size between the two breasts is normal.
Step 2: Arms lifted
Repeat step 1 with the arms lifted.
Step 3: Check for fluids
If you notice any fluids coming out of the nipples, you should also take this up to your doctor. The fluid might be milky, watery, yellow or bloody. You can also try to gently squeeze them in order to check for fluids.
Step 4: Feel your breasts while lying down
You should feel your breast while lying on your back, using the right hand for the left breast and vice versa. The touch should be firm but smooth, using the first 3-4 fingers of your hand, with the pads and keeping them flat together. Using circular motion check the entire surface of your breast: top to bottom (collarbone to top of the abdomen) and side to side (armpit to cleavage). It is very important to cover the whole breast, both in surface and in depth (use light pressure for just under the skin, medium pressure for the middle and firm pressure for the depth.
Step 5: Feel your breast while standing or sitting
As the final part of your self breast exam, you should feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. You could do this in the shower while your skin is wet and slippery. Use the same method as described in step 4.
What can you find?
Finding a lump or some changes in your breast is not a reason to panic, considering that some of these are normal and can occur at various points in the menstrual cycle. The normal structure of the breast in reproductive age women is firm and slightly granular and breast might feel different in different places (eg. a firm ridge along the bottom of each breast is normal). Also, the aspect and the consistency of breasts change with age.
When to see a doctor?
You should set an appointment with your doctor if you notice: a hard lump or knot near your underarm, changes in the way your breasts look or feel (including thickness or fullness from the surrounding tissue), dimples, puckers, bulges or ridges on the skin, a recent change in a nipple (if the nipple becomes inverted instead of sticking out), redness, warmth, swelling, pain, itching, scales, sores, rashes or bloody nipple discharge.
The breast self examinations should be just a normal part of a woman’s life. It should become part of everyone’s beauty routine, regardless the age. Breast cancer is real, but it’s also treatable and discovered early can even be cured!