October is breast cancer awareness month. The global campaign involving thousands of institutions is observed every year to focus the world’s attention to breast cancer awareness and research. Among Indian women, breast cancer is ranked number one among all the malignant diseases. While it is a deadly disease, breast cancer is also easy to treat if you can make the early diagnosis and start early treatment. Here are some steps to check your breast for cancerous lumps. Breast Cancer Early Detection & Diagnosis: Easy Methods to Identify the Disease.
What Are The Initial Symptoms?
Relying entirely on symptoms may be dangerous because some people may have no symptoms at all. Going for a mammogram is a good idea to detect any cancerous growth in your breasts. But if you see any of these signs, talk to your gynaecologist at the earliest.
- Change in breast shape
- Pain in the breast
- Any discharge from the nipples other than breast milk
- Lump in the breast or underarm
- Thickening or swelling on the part of the breast
- Irritation or skin dimpling
- Redness or flaky skin around the nipple
Any of these signs can potentially point towards breast cancer. But bear in mind that these symptoms need not always be a sign of breast cancer. As for lumps, 80 percent of them turn out to be non-cancerous. But paying a visit to the gynaecologist won’t hurt. Here's How To Stay Ahead of Breast and Cervical cancer.
How To Do a Breast Self Exam or BSE
It’s always best to perform a BSE at the end of your periods. Chose a specific day every month after your periods. Here are the steps recommended by the Maurer Foundation.
- Lie down on your left side to check your right breast. Keep a pillow under your back for comfort. Lift your right hand and place your forearm on your forehead as you do.
- Using the flat surface of your three fingers (not tips) – index, middle and ring – move around your right breast in circles. Use three types of pressure mild, medium and deep. This will help you understand if there are any lumps anywhere in the breast.
- Check the outer half of your breast by making the circles with your fingers over your breast in a vertical up-down pattern never once lifting them from your breast. Feel the entire surface from your collarbone to your bra line, till you reach the nipple.
- After checking the outer half of your breast, check the inner half of the breast by first removing the pillow from under your back. Remove your right hand from your forehead and place the arm at a right angle from your body. Now check your nipple area making the same circular motions, use the same up-down pattern in circles to check the rest of your breast.
- Repeat the same pattern for your left breast.
- Stand in front of a mirror and look at both your breasts from three angles – from the right, from the left and the front.
- Check if both the breasts have the same shape.
- Check if the skin on the breasts has wrinkled, puckered or dimpled at certain places.
- Check if there is redness anywhere on the skin.
- Check if there are any changes on your nipple, if the nipple is inverted, red, itchy, swollen or weeping.
- Check for vein patterns. Pay special attention if one of the breasts has a different vein pattern than the other.
- Place your hands above your head and observe your breasts for any differences.
- Hunch down with your hands on your hips and observe both your breasts.
Early detection can save countless lives. Repeat this examination every month. If you have crossed the age of 50, if you have a history of breast cancer or carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes or have an early age of menstruation, your risks may be higher. So be sure to carry out the BSE without fail.