How Breast Self Assessment can be done at Home
Breast cancer is one of the most common Types of Cancer. One of the earliest ways to detect breast cancer is via regular breast self-examination. Self-examination of the breast is critical in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, which will eventually lead to positive outcomes in terms of treatment and cure. A single test may not be sufficient to detect all breast cancers at once. But a dedicated breast self-examination clubbed with other screening methods can do the job.
Over the past years, many debates have taken place, stating how vital self-examination of breasts is in the early detection of cancer and how this simple step can increase the rate of survival. But there are also many apprehensions surrounding the same. For instance, a 2008 study conducted on 400,000 women in China and Russia reported that self-examination of the breast doesn’t have a meaningful effect on detection and survival rates. The report also stated that a self-breast exam might even cause harm by initiating unnecessary biopsies.
But still, self-examination of the breast stands as a reasonable step in detecting and curbing breast cancer. The detection and treatment become even more effective when the self-exam routine is combined with regular physical check-ups by a doctor, mammography or, Ultrasound or MRI in some cases. Breast self-exam is a convenient, cost-effective screening tool to detect cancer, which one can regularly practice. Hence the step becomes a quintessential part in decreasing cancer risks and in increasing the survival rates.
Breast Self Examination in Five Steps:
Begin by looking at the breasts through a mirror, with your body poster, shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. It would help if you looked for:
- Breasts size, shape and colour.
- Breasts that are in even form, without any visible distortion, bulging or swelling.
When to approach a doctor? Pay attention to the following signs:
- An inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of pointing out) or any visible change in nipple position.
- Swelling, dimpling, bulging or puckering of the skin around the breast.
- Presence of any redness, rashes or soreness on and around the breast.
Now, raise your arms and look for the same (above listed) changes or signs.
While standing before the mirror, look for any unusual secretions coming out of either one or both the nipples. It can be watery, milky, yellow fluid or even blood.
Next step is to lie down and examine the breast so that you use your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use the finger pads of your hands and follow a circular motion, covering all sides of the breast. Also, make sure that your touch is gentle, smooth and firm, all simultaneously.
Examine from top to bottom, from side to side. That is specifically from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen and your armpit to your cleavage.
Even you can move your fingers up and down vertically in rows as if you were mowing a lawn. Most people claim this up and down method as a very effective strategy. Make sure to cover all the parts, to feel all the tissues, from the front to the back of the breasts. Use mild pressure to check the skin and tissue lying beneath; medium pressure for the middle of the breast, and a firm yet gentle pressure for the tissue in the back (here, the force applied should make you feel your ribcage).
Examine or feel your breasts when sitting or standing. Many people claim that it becomes even easier to judge when the breasts are wet and slippery. Hence most people prefer to examine breasts while in the shower. While reviewing, cover your entire breast and follow the hand movements mentioned in step 4.
Hence these are some of the trusted steps to carry out breast examination at home.
Also Read: Breast Cancer Treatment After Effects
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A LUMP:
1. Don’t Panic
Don’t Panic. Panicking is never an option if you find anything unusual in your breast, like a lump. In most cases, these lumps are not an indication of cancer. Most women have lumps or lumpy areas in their breasts, and most of them turn out as non-cancerous benign ones. They may be a result of normal hormonal variations, an injury or any benign breast condition.
2. Consult Your Doctor
Consult the doctor and Have a proper clinical diagnosis done. It is best to consult a doctor or specialist who has previously examined you or has carried out a breast check-up for you, like your gynaecologist, primary care doctor, physician etc.
3. Understand Thoroughly
Thoroughly understand the evaluation methods and know what to expect. During the appointment, your doctor may take a health history and conduct a physical examination of the breast. Then will most likely prescribe breast imaging tests. Ultrasound is often the first imaging test conducted (especially to evaluate a lump in women aged below 30 or are pregnant or breastfeeding). The doctor may recommend an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), MBI (molecular breast imaging), or a biopsy if further tests are required. For further evaluation, the doctor may refer you to a breast specialist or surgeon.
4. Clarify Every Doubt
Clarify all your doubts and make sure to get answers. Ask your doctor to explain your condition clearly, like the cause of the lump or any other changes in your breast. Also, remember that you are always at liberty to Get a second opinion.
Summing up, make a self-examination of the breasts an essential part of your cancer screening strategy. Make it a routine, carried out at least once a month. The more you examine your breasts, the more familiar you become with how they usually look and feel. Also, review your breasts several days after your periods, as they are less likely to be swollen or tender and will provide you with the right results.
While examining, do not limit yourself to just your breasts; get to know its neighbourhoods like the upper area, the lower measurement, your armpit etc.
Lastly, keep a record of your findings and doubts during self-examination. It can be an excellent way to track how your breast behaves, whether it feels normal or has any lumps or other irregularities.