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Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020: Use these tips to self-examine your breasts

Ideally, one should examine themselves regularly and especially after the period is over, because one is less likely to be bloated or swollen

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | October 4, 2020 1:30:19 pm
The estimated incidence of breast cancer in India rose 6% from 1.42 lakh in 2016 to 1.51 lakh in 2017. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Cancer — the emperor of maladies — is on a rise, and the causes for the same are multi-factorial. Dr Aruna Muralidhar, senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Bangalore says: “Although breast cancer is thought to be a disease of the developed world, almost 50 per cent of breast cancer cases and 58 per cent of deaths occur in less-developed countries. The age distribution of breast cancer also is changing as younger women, too, are also developing breast cancer.”

She points out that breast cancer is amenable to early detection, since it involves a superficial organ which is not hidden deep in the body. In fact, the very symptoms of the same can be detected by yourself.

What is self-breast examination or SBE?

This is the most important basic level of inspection for detecting breast cancer. “SBE is a convenient, no-cost tool that anyone can use regularly and at any age. A self-breast examination is ideally done by self after your period in front of the mirror” says Dr Muralidhar. 

Ideally, one should examine themselves regularly and especially after the period is over, because one is less likely to be bloated or swollen. However, for women who have already gone through menopause, they should set a particular date on the calendar for SBE. 

READ| Daily consumption of this food item may reduce risk of breast cancer, scientists say

Dr Muralidhar points out the steps to do an SBE:

  1. Face the mirror with your hands over the hips for symmetry. Look for skin changes, lumps, changes in the black area around the nipples, which is known as the areolae. 
  2. Now raise your arms and with your fingers feel for lumps around your breasts. Make sure that the entire extent of the breasts is examined from the armpit area towards the breast and inwards until the midline on both sides.
  3. Examine the entire depth from the front to the back of the breasts — the skin to the rib cage with differing pressures. Feel the breasts whilst lying down in the same manner as above.

READ| Telling Numbers: Recent incidence of breast and cervical cancer in India

What happens if you detect a lump?

If a lump is detected, make sure you don’t panic as lumps often mostly occur due to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. “The lumpiness and sometimes the soreness, too, is more pronounced in the second half of the cycle due to a hormone called progesterone,” says Dr Muralidhar.

In fact, it is to be noted that lumps in the breast may be non-cancerous like fibroadenoma (also called breast mouse), fibrocystic disease, fibroadenomas, sebaceous cysts or lipomas, explains the gynaecologist. 

READ| Ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer

Do not hesitate in consulting a gynaecologist or a breast specialist/surgeon, if you notice the following

  • The lump has lasted more than one menstrual cycle
  • It is growing bigger and feels hard or irregular
  • There are skin changes over and near the lump
  • If you witness blood discharge from the nipple
  • There are lumps in the armpit
  • Nipples seem pulled inwards

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