How to self examine yourself for breast cancer

Breast cancer has emerged as the leading cause of cancer among Indian women. More women are falling prey to it at a younger age. When adjusted against age, the frequency of a woman being detected with breast cancer in her life was the highest at 41 women per 100,000 for Delhi. Chennai came a close second at 37.9, Bangalore at 34.4 and Thiruvananthapuram at 33.7.

Mrs. Sudhakar sensed pain in her chest area for a few days. At first, she thought it might be something minor and would go away by itself. However, it did not. She was feeling quite uncomfortable because of it. That is when she decided to take leave and see a gynaecologist. The doctor informed her that it is important for women to do breast self-examination so that cancers such as hers can be detected early. Mrs. Sudhakar had vaguely heard of it but did not know much.

Data released by the Union Health Ministry reveals that only 38 percent Indian women practice self-breast examination routinely. It also goes on to that increased awareness about how to perform a physical exam could help detect 20 percent of breast cancers in India.

With one out of every 8 women likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in their life, breast self-examination can be a lifesaver and help in the early detection, thus increasing chances of patient survival.

If detected early, 85 percent of patients can survive for five years from the time of diagnosis, whereas with late diagnosis survival rate reduces to 56 percent. Initially, no visible symptoms can be seen. However, they occur as the tumour grows.

Mammography and a clinical breast exam are usually done under the supervision of a doctor. However, you can easily do such an examination at home. It is quick, private, safe and cost-free. Here are the various steps you can take to self examine yourself for breast cancer:

  • Stand in front of a mirror with your shoulders on your waist and begin by looking for any changes in your breast.

  • See if there is any redness, or soreness, rash, swelling of skin, dimpling or bulging of skin on or near your breast.

  • Raise both your arms and repeat your observation about any changes in your breast again. Discharge of any kind- watery, milky, or bloody should be a warning sign.

  • Now lie down comfortably and use your left hand to touch your right breast. Use the front part of your fingers, keeping them flat together. Now move your fingers in a circle, enlarging its circumference with the next circle, covering your breast entirely. You can also move your fingers up and down. The point is to feel your breast while applying varying pressure to find out if there is a lump anywhere.

  • Repeat the same process using your right hand for your left breast. Try to feel the tissue in your breast no matter how you move your hands while doing self breast examination. Press lightly for the skin and tissue just beneath your breasts. Medium pressure will work for the tissue in the middle, while that at the back requires a firm hand.

  • Repeat the same process above when sitting or standing.

Try to do a physical exam for your breasts once a month to be aware of how they look and feel. This will help you notice any changes faster. Make a note in your diary or planner so that you don’t forget the day. Make this a routine.

Also, create a journal to record your observations after every examination. This helps you recollect what you noticed earlier on paper so that you can see if the symptoms have deteriorated or not. And if you notice a lump in your breast, do not panic. See your doctor and discuss your symptoms before arriving to any conclusion.

The cases of cancer in women are on the rise, and the unfortunate fact is that even if a woman does get her diagnosis done in time, the high cost of treatment makes it difficult for her to continue with the treatment. This is why women should buy cancer insurance

Another preemptive solution to safeguard your future is taking out cancer insurance. Cancer insurance bought earlier in life can come to your rescue after the diagnosis of this life-threatening disease. Not only does it provide financial cover right from cancer detection to post-treatment, but it also keeps you recuperate in peace. A little awareness is the key to detecting cancer early and also staying protected against it in time.