One-fourth of all cancer cases reported amongst Indian women are of breast cancer. It is now one of the most common cancers in urban India and accounts for around 32% of all female cancers.
While it is becoming an increasing threat to women, one thing we all can do is a self-examination. Checking for lumps, discolouration and fluid discharge, and taking immediate action can really make a big difference.
We spoke to Dr Rita Bakshi, senior gynaecologist and IVF expert at International Fertility Centre in Delhi for a guide on how you can detect symptoms of breast cancer at home.
A step-by-step guide to breast self-examination
A self-examination means familiarising your senses with your breasts–including its size, tissues, shapes, position, and any bumps. Here’s how you can go about it:
Step 1: Do a visual analysis
The first step calls for examining any visual or physical changes in the breast. No two women have identical breasts. So, it is important to feel the size, shape, and position of your breasts and sense the normalities. Check if your breasts have any superficial marks, redness, scarring, puckering, or white spots.
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For this, stand in front of the mirror to visually examine your breasts and memorise the smallest of details.
Step 2: Examine your breasts
Examine your breasts using the first four fingers of your hand. The purpose of this step is to touch and feel your body to scan the size, consistency, texture, and location–and to pinpoint any tenderness. This can even help in finding any mobile or fixed lump in your breasts.
For this, lie on your back on a flat surface. Then, with your fingers flat, compress the breast tissue while running your fingers around the areola in a concentric circular motion. During this step, ensure that you follow a streamlined pattern to be certain that you cover the entire breast. You can start from the nipple and move outwards to reach the outer edge.
Step 3: Examine your nipples
Squeeze your nipples to check for any discharge. Any kind of fluid–clear, milky, yellowish, or bloody–excreted from the breasts can be dangerous. In case you notice any discharge, reach out to your doctor immediately.
While, not all discharges are cancerous–some of them can arise due to a benign condition–it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, check if your nipple is inverted.
Step 4: Check beyond your breasts
Raise your arms and check for lumps or other abnormalities near the armpits. Breast cancer can spread to the axillary lymph nodes in the armpits of a woman–it usually spreads there first beyond the breast tissue.
What to do if you find a lump?
While it is natural to have lumps and bumps in your breasts, it is necessary to do a regular breast self-examination, which will help you to spot the abnormal ones. If you do find a lump, remember to:
Now that you know, don’t forget to do a self-check once every month. And while you’re at it, encourage your friends as well. Remember, early detection makes all the difference.