|October, each year, is breast cancer awareness month. In truth, every month should be breast cancer awareness month because as women age, the risk of developing breast cancer increases.Patricia Ganz MD, director of Cancer Prevention and Control Research at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center says “early detection is the key.” She also notes that early detection allows for higher cure rates and early cancers are easier to treat and don’t always require invasive treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.In recent years there has been something of a mammogram controversy; nevertheless, the best way to help identify early breast cancer is to have regular mammograms and do breast self-exams one every month. These mammograms should be done every one or two years for women between the ages of 40 and 70. The benefit of mammograms after the age of 70 is often debated among the experts because of other factors including life expectancy, state of health etc. At that age you should discuss such matters with your doctor. The risk of contracting breast cancer in women doesn’t start to decline until after the age of 84.If you are uncertain as to how a Breast Self Exam (BSE)should be performed, here are the steps to follow:
- STEP 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.Here is what to look for:Breasts that are their usual size, shape and color. Breasts that are evenly shaped withour visible distortion or swelling.If you see any of the following changes, bring them to the attention of your doctor:Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin. A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out.) Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling.
- STEP 2: Now raise your arms and look for the same changes.
- STEP 3: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming our of one or both nipples (this could be watery, milky, yellow fluid or blood.)
- STEP 4; Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side, from you collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lwn. this up- and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts. For the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for deep tissue in the back. When you have reached deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage.
- STEP 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower, using the same movements described in STEP 4.