Regularly examining your breasts on your own, also known as Breast self-exam, is important as it helps find breast cancer early, when it’s more likely to be successfully treated. While there is no single test that can be used detect all breast cancers early, experts suggest that performing breast self-exam along with other screening methods can increase the odds of a woman for early breast cancer detection.
Although, the symptoms of breast tumours may vary from person to person, some of the common warning signs of breast cancer include:
- Skin changes, such as redness, swelling
- Visible differences in one or both breasts
- Increase in the breasts size or change in their shape
- Changes in the one or both nipples: colour, shape
- Fluid discharge from nipple, other than breast milk
- Pain in or on any portion of the breast
- Feeling lumps or nodes on or inside the breast
There are certain symptoms that are more specific to invasive breast cancer, such as:
- Irritation or itchiness on the breasts
- Change in the colour breast
- Increase in size or shape of the breasts, over a short period of time
- Changes felt by touch - feel hard, tender or warm
- Peeling/flaking on the nipple skin
- Breast lump or thickening
- Redness or pitting of breast skin (as the skin of an orange)
It's important to remember that there are certain other medical conditions that can cause these changes. For example, change in the skin texture of the breast may be caused due to skin condition such as eczema, and swollen lymph nodes may be caused due to an infection of the breast or some other, unrelated illness. You should consult a doctor for an evaluation if you experience any warning signs. They can help determine whether you have something to worry about. Further diagnostic tests will be recommended if the doctor suspects something.
Depending on the stage and extent of disease, the doctor will determine an effective treatment plan. Breast cancer treatment cost in India is relatively low compared to other countries.
You can do the following to check for signs of breast cancer:
1 - Stand in front of a mirror undressed and observe your breasts in the mirror keeping your shoulders straight and arms on the hips.
Look for size, shape, and colour of the breast.
Also, check whether the breasts are evenly shaped and have no visible distortion or swelling.
If any of the following changes are observed bring them to your doctor's attention:
- Dimpling, or puckering, or bulging of the skin
- A nipple with changed position or an inverted nipple - pushed inward instead of towards out
- Redness, rash, soreness, or swelling
2 - Observe the same after raising your arm.
3 - Check your nipples and check for
- Any sores
- Change in their direction
4 - Put your hands on the hips and press down tightly to tighten the chest muscles beneath the breasts. Turn from one side to other and look at the outer part of your breasts.
5 - Bend forward toward the mirror and roll your shoulders and elbows forward to tighten the chest muscles.
6 - As the breasts fall forward, look for changes in their shape or contour.
7 - Clasp your hands behind the head and press your hands forward. Then, turn from one side to other in order to inspect the outer portions of your breasts and look at the border underneath them. Also, lift your breasts with your hand to observe the underside.
8 - Check your nipples for any fluid discharge. Press by putting thumb and forefinger on the tissue surrounding the nipple and pull outward by the end of the nipple. Check for any fluid discharge and repeat with other breast.
Check while lying down:
You have to lie down and place a pillow or folded towel under your right shoulder. Place your right hand behind your head and put your left hand on the upper part of your right breast with fingers joined together and palms flat. You can use body lotion as it may help make this analysis easier.
Move your fingers in small circular motions and continue around the entire circle in complete motion. Keeping your fingers flat and constantly contact with the breast. After the circle is complete, move in 1 inch towards the nipple and make another circle around the clock. Continue making this pattern until you have felt the entire breast. Also ensure that you feel the upper outer areas extending into the armpits.
Put your fingers flat and then directly on the top of your nipple. Feel underneath the nipple and look for any changes. Gently press the nipple inwards. It should normally move in easily. Repeat these steps with your other breast. Also, remember to check the upper and outer areas of the breast that is nearest to the armpit.