Women can and are advised to perform self-breast exams once a month. According to John Hopkins Medical Centre, 40% of breast cancer diagnoses come from women finding a lump themselves. It is why they and so many other organisations advocate adult women to check themselves regularly.
This is relatively straightforward.
What are the Symptoms of Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer can manifest itself in the following symptoms:
- Lump or thickening area on the breast.
- Change in size or shape of the breast.
- Dimpling of the skin.
- Change in shape of the nipple, such as it sinks into the breast.
- Rash on the nipple or surrounding area.
- Bloodstained discharge from the nipple.
- Swelling or lump in your armpit.
How to check for Breast Cancer Standing up?
Standing straight, use the pads of your fingers to move around your entire breast in a circular pattern. Start by moving from the outside to the centre, checking the entire breast and armpit area.
Check both breasts each month feeling for any lump, thickening, or hardened knot. Notice any changes and get lumps evaluated by your healthcare provider.
How to check for Breast Cancer Lying Down?
While you're lying down, the breast tissue spreads out evenly along the chest wall and can be easier for you to identify the symptoms of breast cancer.
Place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, move the pads of your fingers around your right breast gently in small circular motions covering the entire breast area and armpit.
Use light, medium, and firm pressure. Squeeze the nipple; check for discharge and lumps. Repeat these steps for your left breast.
How to Spot Breast Cancer in the Mirror?
It is possible to find symptoms visually with the aid of a mirror. Here's how.
First visually inspect your breasts with your arms at your sides. Next, raise your arms high overhead.
Look for any changes in the contour, any swelling, or dimpling of the skin, or changes in the nipples.
Next, rest your palms on your hips and press firmly to flex your chest muscles. Left and right breasts will not exactly match—few women’s breasts do, so look for any dimpling, puckering, or changes, particularly on one side.
What Causes Breast cancer?
While not everything is known about the causes of breast cancer there are many known risk factors. Like most cancers, age is one factor - you are more likely to get breast cancer as you get older.
Genetic factors can also predispose some people to be at risk. If you have a mother or sister with breast cancer or if several members of your family have a particular type of cancer, or a close relative was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, then you too may be at risk. If you fall into this category you may be offered genetic testing and yearly mammograms.
Having children slightly reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Hormones can play a role in breast cancer; after menopause women with higher levels of oestrogen and testosterone in their blood have a higher risk of breast cancer than their peers. HRT use and use of the combined contraceptive pill may have an impact.
Being overweight after the menopause increases your risk of breast cancer, as does alcohol intake - the more you drink the higher the risk.
This article has been medically approved by Superintendent Pharmacist Shilpa Shailen Karia, MRPharmS. - GPhC Reg No: 2087328