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Breast Cancer: Prevention Is Better Than Cure

There is no sure cure for breast cancer. The best thing one could do, at any age, is prevention — prevention, which is better than cure. Here is a simple approach you can depend upon to catch the earliest sign of cancer. It can also help you to take appropriate action in the presence and/or absence of a relevant clue.

Women over 20+ should perform the monthly breast self-examination [BSE]. Women who have menstrual periods should perform the examination a few days after the periods have ended. The reason being, that during this time, your breasts are not tender. For menopausal women, it is best to perform BSE on the same day every month.

The following techniques may be used to perform a BSE. However, it is best for you to choose a method you are most comfortable with.

Face The Mirror

Just stand in front of a mirror. Compare the breasts for differences in size, nipple inversion [turning in], bulging, or dimpling. Also, note if there are any skin, or nipple, changes — e.g., a hard knot, or discharge from the nipple.

Now, inspect your breasts —

  • With your arms at your sides.
  • With your arms overhead.
  • With your hands on hips, press firmly to flex your chest muscles.
  • Bend forwards to inspect your breasts.

When your pectoral muscles are contracted, in the position recommended, a slight dimpling of the skin may appear when a growing tumour has invaded a ligament.

Right Breast

Just lie down, and —

  • Place a pillow under your right shoulder.
  • Put your right hand under your head.
  • Check the entire breast area with the finger pads of your left hand.
  • Use small circles and follow an up-and-down pattern.
  • Use light, medium, and firm pressure over each area of the breast.

Also, feel the breast with the surfaces of the second, third, and fourth fingers. Move systematically using small, circular motions from the nipple to the outer margins. Gently squeeze the nipple to ascertain if there is any discharge.

Left Breast

Follow the above steps on your left breast using your right hand.

During Bath

A BSE can be easily performed while you take bath or shower. It is also observed that some women are better able to discover breast masses when their skin is moist.

  • Raise your right arm.
  • Work up a soapy lather on your hand and by holding your fingers flat check your right breast.
  • Use the same small circles and up-and-down pattern, as described earlier, to feel your right breast.
  • Repeat the movement on your left breast.

Seeking Medical Help

Call on your doctor the moment you feel any suspicious lump, or detect a significant change while doing a monthly breast self-exam. Remember — breast lumps should be checked about one week after your period starts.

You need to also know that some changes in the breast are usually irregular and mobile, and that there may be more than one lump. Also, remember — cancerous tumours are usually hard and firm. They do not generally move a great deal.

Report to your doctor, the moment you feel —

  • There is any abnormal discharge from your nipples.
  • There is pain which makes it difficult for you to perform your daily routines.
  • Long standing, unexplained breast pain.
  • Any associated symptom that makes you worried. In simple terms, you should see a doctor if you experience any change/s — subtle, or not-so-subtle — in your breasts.

Symptoms You Should Report To Your Doctor Immediately

  • Redness.
  • Swelling.
  • Pain, which interferes with nursing.
  • Drainage from the nipple.
  • A mass or tender lump in the breast that does not disappear after nursing.
  • Changes in the skin.
  • Any of the symptoms mentioned above, accompanied or not accompanied by fever.

Important: if you are breastfeeding, and develop symptoms of any form of breast infection, you need to seek your doctor’s advice quickly and initiate prompt treatment.

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