India is witnessing an upward trend in the number of breast cancer cases, with an increased incidence in younger women.
Being alert as well as aware of classic symptoms and reporting them to a specialist in time is the most significant factor for a patient to survive; late response and subsequent diagnosis decreases the potential survival of a patient.
Research shows that regular self-examination of your breasts is crucial in spotting lumps or other abnormalities resulting in early diagnosis.
A lump in the breast is one of the early signs of breast cancer and perhaps the most distinguished symptom of the disease; however, not all lumps in the breast are cancerous, says Dr Anand Parihar, Imaging and Radiology Consultant & Founder, Cope with Cancer. Hear the experts explain all in detail.
When is a lump cancerous?
About 80 to 85 percent of breast lumps are benign, meaning they are non-cancerous. Cancerous breast lumps have a tendency to be more uneven in shape. They are often painless and hard, however, in a small percentage of women a painful breast lump turns out to be cancerous.
Best time to examine the breast yourself:
For menstruating women, day 5 or 6 of your menstrual cycle is the best day to perform breast self-examination. Your hormone levels fluctuate each month during your menstrual cycle, which causes changes in breast tissue. Swelling begins to decrease when your period starts. On day 5 and 6, the breasts are softest and least lumpy.
For menopausal/ post-menopausal/ medical menopausal women - breast self-examination can be done on any day of the month. But it should be done on the same date every month. For e.g., if you performed breast self-examination on 1st of April, so you have to do it on the 1st of every subsequent month.
Detecting lumps in your breast yourself:
To carry out the breast self-examination at home, it is broken up in two parts- a visual examination followed by a physical examination:
Visual Examination ï¿½
By standing in front of a mirror without your clothes on, place your hands behind your back. Facing forward, look out for wrinkles, dimples or difference in size, shape and symmetry of the breast. Look for inversion of the nipples (turned inward) or any discharge from the nipple. Move on to lifting the breasts, check for symmetry along the bottom and if there are any folds. Lift each arm, one after the other to check for the following symptoms:
* Change in the size or shape of your breast
* Ache or discomfort in any area
* A new lump under the arm or the breast
Physical Examination (4 step method)-
* The first step is to gently place two or three fingers of each hand under the ears and progressively move them in circles using three different pressures: light, medium and deep. Carry on by moving down in circular motions until you reach the collar bone.
* In step two, gently press the area between the collarbones and move along the line of collar
bone to physically experience any abnormality in the area.
* Moving on to the third step, stand and raise the left hand, place it behind your neck. Use three fingers of your right hand and start pressing gently towards your armpit from the lower area near the breast. Gently press the area in a small gradual circular motion while checking for lumps. The whole procedure should take no more than 2-3 mins.
* For the final step, lie down flat on a bed placing one hand behind your head. Your breast should lie as flat on your chest as possible. To be comfortable, place a pillow under the shoulder or back and perform the following:
- Using the pads of first three fingers, move the fingers in little circles, about the size of a coin.
For each circular motion, change the amount of pressure to feel all the levels of the breast tissue. Make each circle three times- once light, once medium and once deep before you move on to the next area.
- Begin with circles under your arm and move down to below the bra line. Slide your fingers
over the width of one finger and move up again. Don't raise your fingers from the breast as
you move them to ensure you feel the whole area.
- Continue the up and down vertical movement pattern from the collarbone to just below the
bra line until you reach the nipple.
A breast self-examination can take around 15 minutes. So, give yourself time, don't hurry, and follow the pattern.