Cancer, whether of the breast or of any other part, is curable if detected early. Early detection is the key in cancer treatment as it can only be managed, often with a very low prognosis, once it has metastasized. So, the essence of breast self-examination is to allow for early detection of cancerous lump or changes in the breast that could be as a result of cancer so that it can be treated before it metastasize. Cancer can only be managed once it has metastasize as treatment cannot be achieved at this point.
What to check out for during breast self-examination
Check whole breasts area including under the armpits and upper chest regions for changes.
Check appearance of breasts and nipples.
Nipples changes to look out include discharge, flaking (or redness), nipples pain, or inward turning (retraction).
Steps to perform breast self-examination
Stand in front of a mirror and observe your breast while standing straight. Then observe it again while keeping your palms on your hips. It should be pressed firmly. Do the same again as you raise your arms. In these three positions, you are to look out for changes in size, shape and colour of your breasts.
2. Physical examination
With the pads of your fingers, check for lumps, thickening, or hardened knot by moving your fingers around your entire breasts and armpits in a circular pattern from the outside to the center.While doing the physical examination, three levels of varying pressure, light, medium, and firm, should be used. Light pressure is mainly for tissue close to skin, medium is for deep tissue or area while firm pressure is for area close to chest and ribs.
Repeat the physical examination steps above as you lie down. To examine your right breast, place a pillow under your right shoulder and your right arm behind your head, then use your left hand to examine. Repeat the steps for left breast examination. Note that you are to squeeze the nipples to check for discharge.
Start breast self-examination at your 20s
Do not examine preceding or during your menstrual cycle (breast feel tender at this point). Do it a week following your period instead.
Note the feel of your breast to guide you.
Do it monthly (remember to give one week gap following your period).
Report changes or lumps to your doctor
Use the flats of your finger to feel and push gently around the entire breast.
Do not fail to check around the armpit regions, breast tissues are also there.
Examination should be carefully done noting any changes.
Not all lumps and changes in breasts are cancerous but go for screening once you notice them in your breast to confirm.