Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women all over the world,* including Bangladesh. About 1 out of every 4 cancer patients in the world is affected by this cancer. However the good news is, with early diagnosis along with necessary treatments the chance of the disease being cured is about 99%; which comes down to 27% in advanced stage patients.**
Although all cancers of the human body are very difficult to diagnose at an early stage, breast cancer is much more likely to be detected at an early stage. All that is needed is the right information and awareness about the disease. By regular Breast Self Examination (BSE), you can detect the disease at an early stage.
The method of examining one's own breasts is called breast self examination.
What age should a woman start to do Breast Self Examination?
All women age 20 and above need to practice regular BSE.
When should BSE be performed?
BSE is usually done on a fixed day of the month, within the 1st week after the menstrual period starts, when breasts are least likely to be swollen or tender. Those who have stopped menstruating or during pregnancy, BSE can be performed on a specific day of the month for every month.
Try to notice for the following changes while performing BSE:
- Visible mass on the breast or armpits (both sides)
- Changes in the skin of the breast
- redness or warmth
- Thickening of the skin like an orange peel
- Dimples on the skin
- Growing/ Enlarged vein
- Changes of the Nipple (check both of them)
- Retracted nipple
- Discharge from the nipple
- Unusual changes in shape/size
- Feeling of a mass inside the breast, an invisible lump
- Exercise regularly.
- Keep the weight under control.
- Breast-feeding your baby regularly reduces the risk of breast cancer. (Your doctor will give you the time period of how long you should breastfeed your child)
- If you have a family history of cancer, always be aware in advance and keep contact with your physician. Perform BSE every month according to your cycle.
- Eat a healthy diet and avoid alcohol and smoking
Which part of the chest to examine?
The whole place visible in the picture. Area starts from the collarbone to the sternum and then to the last rib of the chest cage.
Method of performing BSE
Remember, while performing BSE, it is important to diagnose abnormalities in your breasts through the marked parts of these 3 fingers indicated in the picture.
Steps of BSE
Step 1: Notice
Notice if there is any change in the normal position,size and shape of the breast while posing in different angles according to the steps mentioned. ( Do this in front of a mirror )
1. Put your hands on your hips
2.Raise both hands above the head
3. Tighten the chest muscles by leaning forward with both hands pressed slightly against the waist
4. Gently press each nipple to check if any discharge is emitted.
Step 2: Feel your breast by touch
1. Lie down, place a pillow under the shoulder and place the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers of your hand on one breast. (while checking left breast use right hand and vice versa) first gently and then firmly press down using small motions to examine the entire left breast.
2. Use clockwise or counterclockwise motion while performing BSE. Start from the nipple towards the armpit or from the armpit towards the nipple. Also you can go for another method, consider the up-and-down of an imaginary line so that the full area is covered
Follow the steps for proper Breast self examination
Any change in the breast does not indicate cancer. In most cases a mass might just be a benign fat tissue.
1. The mass will be in a fixed area and will not spread to other parts of the body.
2. In 90% of the cases it is usually painless
3. The edges of the mass are equal or regular.
4. The mass will not be adherent to the skin.
5. In certain cases there is some discolored discharge present from the nipple ( pale to slight greenish) but no blood will be excreted.
1. The mass is more prone to spreading to the surrounding tissues in malignant cases.
2. Usually painful.
3. The borders of the mass are highly irregular.
4. The skin lying above the mass is adherent to it
5. Secretion of blood/ blood like substance from the nipple
If any of these changes are seen, immediately seek a doctor’s advice for the necessary treatment.
Make breast self-examination a regular habit, because it is your and our responsibility as a woman to be aware which can help reduce the risk of death by diagnosing breast cancer at the right time.
Winning the battle against breast cancer
* GLOBOCAN 2018
** Breast Cancer: Statistics [Internet; cited 2019, May 23]. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/breast-cancer/statistics
- Breast Self-Exam [Internet; cited 2019, May 23]. Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam
- Compiled from multiple other valid sources