Breast Self-Examination: A Guide On How To Detect Breast Cancer Early On

Women tend to put themselves second to the family at the expense of their health. Societal stigma plays a role in developing countries like Pakistan. The fair sex hesitate to speak openly about health concerns regarding their own anatomy, a recent story by BBC highlighted. 

For these women and others, being educated on the self-examination techniques of their own breasts could empower them. Although self-examination cannot provide the medical accuracy of a mammogram, it does help in the early detection of major lumps and abnormalities that appear on the breasts. 

Thoroughly examining one's breasts needs no medical expertise, and can be performed in the privacy of one’s home environment. A few days after the period cycle ends is the opportune time to perform the self-examination since hormonal changes alter the breasts mid-cycle.

What better time to start than in the month of October, marked as breast cancer awareness month. Here are the five steps to follow. 

Step 1 - Place your arms at your side, near the hips, and stand topless in front of a mirror then begin noticing if there are changes in your breast. You need to check for changes in breast size, shape and symmetry. You should also be looking for dimpling and puckering of the breast skin. At first glance, inverted nipples and redness are also easy to spot. So, watch out. 

Step 2 - Lift up your arms and examine the breasts to identify these same issues. 

Step 3 - Next, look for any discharge from the nipples, either from one or both. They could be yellow fluid, watery and even milky. Be alert to anything dripping out of the nipples.  

Step 4 - Lie down and use the opposite hand to check each breast: left hand for right breast, right hand for left breast Instead of using the tips of your fingers, join the fingers and use the finger padding below in a flattened position. 

Rotate these fingers in small concentric circles, covering the whole breast including the nipple. The pattern can follow the increasing width of the circles formed with the fingers, until the entire breast has been studied. Also, pinch the nipples gently. 

Step 5 - Repeat the same movements with the fingers while sitting or standing upright. If it makes it easier to do this when taking a bath, when the skin is wettened, the same self-examination can be completed in the shower. 

This is not enough. For all women above 20 years of age, doctors advise going in for an annual breast exam. Younger women with a family history of breast cancer and associated risk factors should consider doing a mammography in consultation with their physician. All women above the age of 40 should have routine annual breast examinations. 

breast cancer Breast self-examination could help prevent cancer in the nick of time. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay