Self Examination of Breasts

Self Examination of Breasts

According to the WHO; in 2020; there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths. At the end of 2020; 7.8 million women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in last 5 years were alive. Thus breast cancer is the world’s most prevalent cancer.

Breast self-examination (BSE): It is a screening method used by yourself to detect early breast cancer.

In this method; you can yourself look and feel each breast for any possible lumps; distortions or swelling.

The advantage of self- examination of breasts is that any breast lump can be picked up at the earliest. Breast cancer; when picked up in the earlier stages; has very good prognosis and complete cure.

How to Do Self Examination of Breasts

Stand in front of the mirror and look for any signs of visible dimpling; swelling or redness on the breasts. This is repeated in several positions like arms hanging next to the body; behind the head and on the waist.

Figure 1

Palpation of both the breasts using the pads of fingers to feel the bumps either superficial or deeper in the tissues in circles; wedges or vertical lines.

The vertical strip pattern involves moving the fingers up and down over the entire breast.

The wedge pattern involves feeling the tissues starting at the nipples and then moving outward.

The circular pattern involves feeling the tissues in concentric circles from the nipple outwards.

You can also divide the breast into 4 quadrants and checking each quadrant separately.

This palpation process covers the entire breast; including the axillary tail or the part of breast  that extends towards the armpit or axilla.

It is usually done standing in front of the mirror and then lying down.

It can also be done when the breasts are wet like while taking shower; and it is easier as the fingers slide down easily and it is easy to feel the tissues.

Figure 2

Palpation of nipples and looking for any discharge like pus, fluid, milk or blood.

The best time of self- examination of breasts is just after the menstruation as the breasts are soft, but those who have irregular cycles; can do the self- examination every month on a specific date to be punctual.

Properly done self- examinations hardly take 7 to 10 minutes; but it can be life-saving.

What are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

  1. Family history of breast cancer. 5 to 10% cases are due to genetic predisposition inherited from a person’s parents. BRCA1; BRCA2
  2. Obesity
  3. Lack of physical exercise
  4. Hormone replacement therapy during menopause
  5. Early age at first menstruation
  6. Having children late in life or not at all. Never did breast feeding or little breast feeding
  7. Past history of breast cancer.
  8. Alcoholism
  9. Radiation exposure.
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