Maria’s 62 year old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last December. Unfortunately, the cancer was at an advanced stage and posed a big threat to the patient’s life. Maria, who lives in Ambala with her mother, took her mom to PGI, Chandigarh. Doctors at PGI told her that her mom could be saved only by removing the cancerous breast. Even with the surgery, her mom would be lucky to live! It took a lot of convincing her mom to finally get the surgery done. Maria knows the physical and emotional turmoil her mom has been through. And she still wonders why they could not detect the cancer at an earlier stage…
Breast Cancer can be detected at an early stage.
While it is true that not all cancers can be detected at home, most of them can be detected by a simple “breast self examination (BSE)”. Doctors worldwide encourage all women to do a self examination of their breasts regularly in order to detect breast cancer as soon as it occurs.
When Should The BSE Be Done
For pre-menopausal women, it is best to do their self exam 3-4 days after their period is over. This makes sure that the breasts are not swollen or tender to touch. For post-menopausal women, any day of the month is good enough. So these women should select any date (e.g. first day of the month) and use it to do a breast self exam every month.
BSE should be done once a month by all women.
Besides the BSE, it is also important to get an annual examination done by a health worker/doctor/gynecologist.
How To Conduct The BSE
• Start with just looking at your breasts. Stand in front of a mirror. Raise your arms and hold behind your head. Now look out for any changes in shape, any inconsistency in contour, lumps, sores, inward-turned nipples etc. Any change you notice is important.
• Repeat the above with your hands on your hips. Watch out for any puckering or dumpling of the skin. • Now lie down and use your hands to examine the breasts. Use the right hand to examine the left breast and vice-versa.
• Using the pads of your fingers, look for lumps or bumps. Feel the skin as well as the tissue within. • Extend the BSE to the area leading to armpits and armpits themselves. Look for lumps in the collar bone area as well.
• Check each nipple for anomalies. Squeeze each nipple to se if there’s any discharge. • You could mentally divide the breast into 4 quadrants and examine each one properly. This helps in being more meticulous in the BSE. You could also maintain a journal of your BSE results.
Cause For Concern
• Lump, bumpy skin, hard knot or thickening • Change in the size or shape of the breast • Dimpling or puckering of the skin • Swelling, redness or darkening • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly • Itchy sores or rashes on the breast or on the nipple • Turning in of the nipple • Continuous pain in any part of the breast.
What To Do
If you notice any of the above in your BSE, visit your doctor as soon as possible and get a professional examination done. 8 out of 10 lumps found in BSE’s are harmless, but it never hurts to know for sure, right? Removing the breast is the last resort in the battle against breast cancer. It involves huge emotional trauma and doubt. So it is in your own interest to regularly conduct a BSE and encourage all your friends and relatives to do so too.