The simple fact of being women makes us more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in our lives. In fact, recent studies show that approximately 12% of women will receive a diagnosis of breast cancer at some point in their lives. (1) But do not be frightened! This does not imply that it has to happen, it just means that it is something to be aware of. The good part is that we have in our hands a tool to protect ourselves: breast self-examination.
Self-examination or breast self-examination on a regular basis is the best way to ensure early detection of any condition. It is about observing and feeling your breasts with a specific technique in search of possible changes, in order to be able to communicate them to your doctor in time.
Self-examination will only take 5 minutes of your time: a simple habit with which you are doing a lot for your health and your life!
WHEN SHOULD A BREAST SELF-EXAMINATION BE DONE?
It is possible that breast self-examination may be uncomfortable and uncommon for some women, but it is very important that you become familiar with your breasts and try to check them regularly.
Try to do the check once a month to familiarize yourself with the normal appearance and touch of your breasts. It is best to examine yourself several days after your period is over , when your breasts are less swollen or tender. If the period no longer comes, simply examine the first or last day of each month. (two)
HOW TO DO BREAST SELF-EXAMINATION?
Breast self-examination has two main parts: observation and palpation . That is, how your breasts look, and how they feel to touch. Let us begin!
We will observe our breasts in front of a mirror, in three different positions:
- Arms down
- Arms in jug (ie with hands on hips)
- Arms up, hands clasped behind the head.
What are we looking for? What do we look at? We look for variations or anomalies in its size, shape, color, and state of the skin. Above all we seek to verify is that there are no roughness, inflammation, lumps, or dimples. (3)
- Size, shape, color and regular skin
- Uniform, symmetrical breasts (within your normality), without swelling or lumps.
- Rough skin (like orange peel), wrinkles, redness of the skin.
- Irregular contour, dimples or lumps on the skin.
- Nipples that have changed position
- Unusual discomfort or inflammation
It’s time to play. But how to do it?
- Palpation of foot: Raise your left arm and put your hand on your neck. Use your right hand to palpate the left breast, and then the other way around. Check your breasts with circular movements, from the armpit to the nipple, checking that you do not notice any lumps. Then move up and down and side to side. The important thing is to follow a pattern to make sure you have covered the entire breast.
- Lying palpation: lie on the bed face up. Put a pillow under your left shoulder to feel your left breast. Feel your breast as well as standing, and then do it with the other breast. Again, it is about checking if there are lumps or abnormalities.
- Nipples: squeeze the nipples with the index finger and thumb to check if any type of fluid comes out. If there is any type of fluid, take note of its characteristics (transparent, milky or bloody) to describe them to your doctor.
It is done! By doing this exam regularly you will be familiar with the feel and normal appearance of your breasts, and therefore, you will be able to see more clearly when something has changed.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU NOTICE A CHANGE IN YOUR BREASTS?
It is important not to panic or draw conclusions directly. They may be normal changes, or they may be a sign of another problem. The important thing is to go to the doctor to inform him about the change you have noticed.
Even if you are not sure about the change, or have noticed something strange on your first palpation (and therefore you are not so familiar with “your normality”), it is good to discuss it with the doctor to make sure everything is fine.
And remember, the percentage of survival to breast cancer is approximately 80% of cases. It is worth spending 5 minutes doing prevention! (two)
- Seer.cancer.gov (2017). Cancer of the Breast (Female) – Cancer Stat Facts . [online] Available at: https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/breast.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2017].
- Greenstein Orel, MD, S. (2016). Breast Self-Exam (BSE) | Breastcancer.org . [online] Breastcancer.org. Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam [Accessed 30 Oct. 2017]
- Breastcancer.org. (2017). The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam | Breastcancer.org . [online] Available at: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam/bse_steps?utm_medium=OBWidget&utm_source=OB [Accessed 30 Oct. 2017].