The month of October is International Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In seeking to create increased awareness of breast cancer, its primary purpose is to provide information for women about steps they can take to detect the disease early and to provide vital information and support to those affected by the disease. I’m showing my support for this cause by making this entry here.
Until my mother was diagnosed with early breast cancer two years ago, I did not care less for the pamphlets, posters and the like with pink ribbons on it. I usually see it in hospitals, particularly in the clinics of OB-Gyns. After my mother’s diagnosis, my eyes have grown so alert in detecting them and reading the useful information it conveys.
When I hear of breast cancer, I repeatedly get an earful of how helpful a monthly breast exam can do to detect breast cancer in its early stage (hopefully it’s early). The exam is so that one will “get to know” her breasts and determine what’s normal for her so that she can immediately go to the doctor if she notes some changes in them.
The proper way to do a self-breast exam is:
- Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips. Look for any changes in the size, shape, and color. Look for any dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin. Has the nipple changed position or become inverted? Is there redness, soreness, a rash, or swelling?
- Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.
- While you’re at the mirror, gently squeeze each nipple between your finger and thumb and check for nipple discharge (this could be a milky or yellow fluid or blood).
- 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 fingers of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side—from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage. Follow a regular grid pattern, so that no areas are missed.Begin examining each area with a very soft touch, and then increase pressure so that you can feel the deeper tissue, down to your ribcage.
- 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. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in Step 4.
It is encouraged to do this exam monthly with these questions in mind:
1. Has their shape changed since the last examination?
2. Does the nipple look different?
3. Is there any noticeable swelling in the armpit?
4. Are there any unusual lumps or thickening in the breasts?
The steps sound so harmless, but you don’t know how anxious I get every time I do self-breast exam. I don’t only do it once a month, but so frequently, especially when I take a shower. I do the breast exam while lying down anywhere within the 8th to 1oth day from my period because I understand, these are the “quiet” days as there aren’t too much “hormonal activities” going on in my body – so there shouldn’t be lumps there. I say this because during and immediately before my period, I really do feel some usual lumps in them (and I suddenly cannot wait for the period to end so that I can see if they’ll disappear!) and they get so tender. The lumpiness and the tenderness vanish when I finish my period though (thank God!).
It is never said enough. You have never heard it until you actually listen.
Again, sacrificing redundancy for the sake of emphasis: “Do self-breast exam regularly.”