Dr. Kiran is a general practitioner who leads multiple health-related campaigns as she pursues her path to specialization. At some stage of life, 1 in 9 Pakistani women has become the patient of breast cancer. In Asia, Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer.
The biggest reason for the high prevalence of breast cancer in Pakistan is a lack of awareness which causes a delay in the detection of breast cancer and most women approach hospitals at advanced stages of cancer. Every October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, providing a chance to raise awareness for one of the major causes of death from cancer in women. Here, Dr. Kiran discusses risk factors, crucial self-examination techniques, and red flags.
Breast Self-Exam: How to Check for Breast Lumps & Changes
- Stand in front of a mirror.
- Put your arms down by your sides. Look for any changes in breast shape, breast swelling, dimpling in your skin, or changes in the position of your nipples.
- Raise your arms high over your head and look for the same things. Lastly, put your hands on your hips and press firmly to make your chest muscles flex. Look for the same changes again. Be sure to look at both breasts.
- Use your right hand to examine your left breast, then vice versa. With the pads of your three middle fingers, press on every part of one breast. Use light pressure, then medium, then firm.
- Feel for any lumps, thick spots, or other changes. A circular pattern may help you make sure you hit every spot.
- Then, press the tissue nearest your armpit. Be sure to check under your areola (the area around your nipple) and then squeeze your nipple to check for discharge.
- Repeat the steps on the other side.
- When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads more evenly. This makes it a good position to feel for changes, especially if your breasts are large.
- Keep in mind that your breast tissue extends to your armpit, collarbone, and top of your abdomen!
How Can I Lower My Risk?
You can do the following things to help lower your breast cancer risk.
- Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
- Choose not to drink alcohol, or drink alcohol in moderation.
- If you are taking hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, ask your doctor about the risks.
- Breastfeed your children, if possible.
- Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.
- Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms.
Red flags in self-examination include:
- A hard lump or knot near your underarm.
- Changes in the way your breasts look or feel.
- Dimples, puckers, bulges, or ridges on the skin of your breast.
- A recent change in a nipple to become pushed in (inverted) instead of sticking out.
- Redness, warmth, swelling, or pain.
- Itching, scales, sores, or rashes.
- Bloody nipple discharge.
Breast self-exam, or regularly examining your breasts on your own, can be an important way to find breast cancer early when it’s more likely to be treated. The best time to do a monthly breast self-exam is about 2 to 3 days after your period starts.