Since the passing of my grandmother, I’ve dedicated my free time whenever I can in volunteering and participating in events and organization that focus on Breast cancer research and awareness. As October is the month of Breast cancer awareness, I figured to continue the awareness on different topics related to breast cancer.
“In loving memory of every breast cancer patient, family member and friend who has lost the battle with breast cancer and the ones who continue to conquer it!”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in South Africa and it is increasing in incidence. One in every 31 women in South Africa will develop breast cancer in their life time and if diagnosed early 90% of these women will be alive after five years.
Sadly, large numbers of women with breast cancer are found in rural areas. Unfortunately women find out too late and by then the cancer has spread, becoming difficult to treat. One of the reason being lack of access to information and limited healthcare. The only way to win the fight against cancer is through knowledge, research and taking action. When women have knowledge they can take appropriate steps in testing themselves and when in doubt they will get professional help.
Early detection is absolutely crucial in ensuring effective treatment and positive outcomes. One method is the Breast Self-Examination (BSE); a technique which allows one to examine their breast tissue for any physical or visual changes. Do know that not every cancer can be found this way, but it is a critical step you can and should take for yourself.
Tips for performing Breast Self-Examination
- Try to get in the habit of doing a breast self-examination once a month to familiarize yourself with how your breasts normally look and feel but if you are pregnant, no longer have periods or your period is irregular, choose a specific day each month
- If you find a lump or notice other unusual changes, Don’t panic. About 80% of lumps found are not cancerous. See your doctor promptly for further evaluation.
How to do a Breast Self-Examination
Part 1: Touch
- Check the OUTER HALF of your right breast.
Lie down and roll on to your left side to examine your right breast. Place your right hand, palm up on your forehead. Your breast should lie as flat on your chest as possible. It may be easier and more comfortable if you put a pillow behind your shoulder or back.
- Using the flat pads of your three middle fingers—not the tips—move the pads of your fingers in little circles, about the size of a dime.
For each little circle, change the amount of pressure so you can feel ALL levels of your breast tissue. Make each circle three times—once light, once medium, and once deep—before you move on to the next area.
- Start the circles in your armpit and move down to just below the bra line.
Then slide your fingers over—just the width of one finger and move up again. Don’t lift your fingers from your breast as you move them to make sure you feel the entire area. Continue this up-and-down vertical strip pattern—from your collarbone to just below your bra line—until you reach the nipple.
- Check the INNER HALF of your right breast.
When you reach the nipple, remove pillow and roll on to your back, remove your hand from your forehead and place this arm at a right angle (see drawing). Carefully check the nipple area using the same circular pressures as before, without squeezing. Then examine the remaining breast tissue using the up-and-down vertical strip pattern, until you reach the middle of your chest. Place your non-palpating hand down at your side, make a row of circles above and below your collarbone, working from your shoulder to your mid-line.
Roll on to your right side and repeat these steps on your left breast, using your right hand.
Part 2: Look
Stand in front of a mirror and look closely at your breasts in the following three positions, viewing from the right and left as well as facing forward. Check for changes in the following:
- Shape: Compare one to the other. One breast may normally be larger than the other, but sudden changes in size should not occur.
- Skin: Check for rash, redness, puckering, dimpling, or orange-peel-textured appearance.
- Nipples: Check for any physical changes such as a sudden inversion, scaliness, redness, itching, swelling, or discharge.
- Vein patterns: Look for a noticeable increase in size or number of veins compared to the other breast.
It is important for us to learn how to do Breast Self Examinations because it helps us to familiarize ourselves with the shape, size, and texture of our breasts.This is important because it can help determine if what you are feeling is normal or abnormal.
Prevention will always be better than a cure.