BREAST cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer affecting women in the world. Throughout your life you may have heard of the importance of conducting regular breast self-examinations to check for signs of breast cancer. While breast cancer self-exams can be done, physicians and health experts now advise women to increase their breast awareness.
Breast awareness simply means becoming familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel and knowing what changes to look and feel for in your breast.
This means to be aware of changes in the size of your breasts, changes in the nipples, nipple rash, nipple discharge, breast puckering or dimpling, lymph node swelling, breast pain, skin redness or breast lumps.
When to start breast self-exams
Health experts advise women to begin breast self-exams by the age of 20. Women should have a clinical breast exam by a physician every three years until the age of 40.
After the age of 40, women should have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year.
It is recommended that women do a breast self-exam about a week after the first day of their period, when breasts are no longer swollen and tender due to hormonal fluctuations.
There are various methods of detecting lumps in your breasts like the clock, wedge and sweeping method.
If you find a lump in your breast, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. Keep in mind that 80 percent of breast lumps are non-cancerous.
This is because more than 50 percent of women have what is known as fibrocystic breasts usually during their periods and menopause.
Fibrocystic breasts are lumpy, painful and tender and develop when breast cells fill with fluid and form benign cysts in the breasts. These changes are attributed to hormone fluctuations during a woman’s menstrual period and menopause.
Common breast cancer symptoms
• Tender nipples
• Lumps over the breasts
• Swelling over the breast
• Change in appearance of the breast
• Pain in the breast
• Nipple discharge in only one of the breasts
Changes to look for in your breasts
• Any new lump (which may or may not be painful or tender)
• Unusual thickening of your breasts
• Sticky or bloody discharge from your nipples
• Any changes in the skin of your nipples or breasts, such as puckering or dimpling
• An unusual increase in the size of one breast
• One breast unusually lower than the other.