This whole month is committed to creating awareness about Breast Cancer. Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the breast. Cancer itself means when cells begin to grow out of control. Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. Also it occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too. It’s important to understand that most breast lumps are benign and not cancer (malignant). Non-cancerous breast tumors are abnormal growths, but they do not spread outside of the breast. They are not life threatening, but some types of benign breast lumps can increase a woman’s risk of getting breast cancer.
So knowing and understanding about breast cancer is one thing, getting yourself physically examined is another topic. A breast self-exam for breast awareness is an inspection of your breasts that you do on your own. To help increase your breast awareness, you use your eyes and hands to determine if there are any changes to the look and feel of your breasts.
While October is the month committed for this purpose, when it comes to self-examination, there is no such thing as dedicating just one month of the year to doing your own check on the disease. We at Social Diary wish to highlight the need to keep examining yourself for breast cancer on a regular basis. Here’s looking into the simple way in which you can get it done:
- In Front of a Mirror
Stand undressed from the waist up in front of a large mirror in a well-lit room. Look at your breasts. If they aren’t equal in size or shape, that’s OK! Most women’s breasts aren’t. With your arms relaxed by your sides, look for any changes in size, shape, or position, or any breast skin changes. Look for any puckering, dimpling, sores, or discoloration.
Check your nipples and look for any sores, peeling, or change in their direction.
Place your hands on your hips and press down firmly to tighten the chest muscles beneath your breasts. Turn from side to side so you can look at the outer part of your breasts.
Then bend forward toward the mirror. Roll your shoulders and elbows forward to tighten your chest muscles. Your breasts will fall forward. Look for any changes in their shape or contour.
- Now, clasp your hands behind your head and press your hands forward.
Again, turn from side to side to inspect your breasts’ outer portions. Remember to look at the border underneath them. You may need to lift your breasts with your hand to see it.
Check your nipples for discharge fluid. Place your thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and pull outward toward the end of the nipple. Look for any discharge. Repeat on your other breast.
- In the Shower
Feel for changes in the breast. It helps to have your hands slippery with soap and water.
- Check for any lumps or thickening in your underarm area. Place your left hand on your hip and reach with your right hand to feel in the left armpit. Repeat on the other side.
- Check both sides for lumps or thickenings above and below your collarbone.
- With hands soapy, raise one arm behind your head to spread out the breast tissue.
- Use the flat part of your fingers from the other hand to press gently into the breast. Follow an up-and-down pattern, moving from bra line to collarbone.
- Continue the pattern until you have covered the entire breast. Repeat on the other side.
When Lying Down
- Lie down and place a small pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Put your right hand behind your head. Place your left hand on the upper portion of your right breast with fingers together and flat. Body lotion may help to make this easier.
Think of your breast as a face on a clock. Start at 12 o’clock and move toward 1 o’clock in small circular motions. Continue around the entire circle until you reach 12 o’clock again. Keep your fingers flat and in constant contact with your breast. When the circle is complete, move in 1 inch toward the nipple and complete another circle around the clock. Continue in this pattern until you’ve felt the entire breast. Make sure to feel the upper outer areas that extend into your armpit.
Place your fingers flat and directly on top of your nipple. Feel beneath the nipple for any changes. Gently press your nipple inward. It should move easily.
Repeat these steps on your other breast. Don’t forget to check the upper, outer area of the breast, nearest to the armpit.
Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important. While mammograms can help you to detect cancer before you can feel a lump, breast self-exams help you to be familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes. And in the case that you do find a lump, then first don’t panic. Remember it could be many things other than cancer. But do check in with your doctor’s office if you notice any new breast changes, such as:
- An area that is different from any other area on either breast
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or in the underarm that lasts through your menstrual cycle
- A change in the size, shape, or contour of the breast
- A mass or lump
- A marble-like area under the skin
- A change in the feel or appearance of the skin on the breast or nipple (dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed)
- Bloody or clear fluid discharge from the nipples
- Redness of the skin on the breast or nipple
Remember, when you take it upon yourself to care enough, you create a ripple effect which will make others also join hands and create awareness on why self-examination is essential and important.