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Health A to Z

Breast Cancer Self Exam: Early Detection is Key to Survival

Dr. Sarah Ali

A breast self-exam helps women understand the normal look and feel of their breasts.

Breast cancer impacts 2.1 million women each year globally. It causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women. In 2018, approximately 627,000 women died from breast cancer – that is about 15% of all cancer deaths among women. In India, breast cancer accounts for 27% of all cancers in women. The U.S., India, and China collectively account for almost one-third of the global breast cancer cases.

What this data suggests, is that it is important for women to be vigilant about breast cancer. Breast self-exam is a way by which a woman can physically and visually examine her breasts and underarm areas for changes. Doctors believe that breast self-check is good for women to familiarise with their breasts, so they understand what’s normal and report the changes on time.

Why breast self-exam is done?

A breast self-exam helps women to understand the normal look and feel of their breasts. If you notice a change or an abnormality in your breasts or if you notice one breast is grossly different when compared with the other, see your gynecologist. While you do a breast self-exam, look for the following changes:

  • Growth of a lump
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • Swelling of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Nipple abnormalities (such as redness, scaliness or turning inward)

How to do a breast self-exam?

  • Stand in front of a mirror and check each breast for anything unusual. Check the skin for puckering, dimpling or scaliness.
  • Next, press your hands firmly on your hips, bend slightly toward the mirror and pull your shoulders and elbows forward. This is to check for any change in the shape or contour of your breasts.
  • Next, gently press each nipple and look for a discharge.
  • Use the pads of your fingers to check the breast and the surrounding area firmly and thoroughly. You can use a lotion or powder to help your fingers move easily over the skin. Check for any unusual lump or mass under the skin. Move your fingers in small, overlapping tissues that are about the size of a dime.

While doing a breast self-exam, it is important to cover the whole breast and pay special attention to the area between the breast and the underarms.

What should be done if there a lump?

One of the scariest moments for a woman is feeling something unusual while performing breast self-examination. If you find a lump, it is important not to panic. If you feel something different or a definite lump, there may be a reason for concern, and it is important to contact your doctor. Often, the lumpiness may be due to a change in the menstrual cycle, but if there is nipple discharge or dimpling or puckering, you may want to see your gynecologist right away.

It is natural to be scared if there is a lump, but do not let the probability of cancer keep you from taking action. Consult top-quality gynecologists and oncologists on the mfine app the minute you need to. Download the app and take charge of your health today.

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